Amid one of the worst hurricane seasons the world has ever seen, Puerto Rico has been hit with tremendous losses, unlike anything the island has ever seen. After losing all electricity, the Caribbean nation now faces a severe crop and agriculture crisis.
The New York Times reports that Hurricane Maria wiped out 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s crop value. The Category 4 storm had reportedly destroyed many plantations, chicken coops and dairy barns, making the disaster—as Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture Carlos Flores Ortega claims, “one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry.”
The Times spoke to a resident farmer in the area, José A. Rivera, where he boldly predicted that there will not be any food because of the extreme level of damage from Hurricane Maria.
“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” said Rivera. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”
Flores tells the Times that “plantain, banana, and coffee crops were the hardest hit” and dangerous landslides in the mountains destroyed many of the island’s roads, which critically damage their agricultural infrastructure.
“Sometimes when there are shortages, the price of plantain goes up from $1 to $1.25. This time, there won’t be any price increase; there won’t be any product,” Rivera explains. “When I heard the meteorologist say that the two had turned into a three and then a four, I thought, ‘Agriculture in Puerto Rico is over.’ This really is a catastrophe.”
Puerto Rico reportedly suffered a staggering $780 million loss because of the storm compared to Hurricane Irma, which took out $45 million worth of production of its agriculture.
“I have never seen losses like these in any of my 80 years,” said the plantation foreman Félix Ortiz Delgado. “Those palms take about 10 years to grow. I will be dead by then.”
Flores remains optimistic however in the face of such dire tragedy. While acknowledging that agriculture in general always the most vulnerable in natural disasters, he believes that now is time for a full revamp of their “antiquated” infrastructure.
“Agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to natural disasters,” Flores told The Times. “But it’s also the one that can have the speediest recovery, and it’ll be the great surprise in the Puerto Rican economy because we’re going to come back stronger.”
“We had an antiquated agricultural infrastructure that maybe now is the opportunity to make it more efficient,” he added. “Now is the moment because we’re starting from zero. Maybe it hadn’t been done before because there was no way of financing it. We’re going to rebuild better this time.”
Read the full story here.