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After Hurricane Maria, ‘There Is No More Agriculture in Puerto Rico’
Puerto Rico’s agriculture secretary, Carlos Flores Ortega, estimates Hurricane Maria wiped out 80% of the value of the island’s crops in a matter of hours, worth $780 million, says the New York Times. The newspaper quoted a farmer on the southeast coast as saying, “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be for a year or longer.”
The Category 4 hurricane stripped leaves from plants and even the bark from trees, “leaving a rich agricultural area looking like the result of a post-apocalyptic drought. Rows and rows of fields were denunded. Plants simply blew away.” Dairy barns and large poultry houses were destroyed. Flores said the plaintain, banana, and coffee crops were the hardest hit. As a comparison, Hurricane Irma, which grazed the island two weeks ago, caused $45 million in losses of agricultural production.
“Puerto Rico already imports about 85% of its food, and now its food imports are certain to rise drastically as local products like coffee and plantains are added to the list of Maria’s staggering losses,” said the Times. Agriculture Secretary Flores said the island has the opportunity to rebuild its agricultural sector with modern equipment, infrastructure, and practices. “We had an antiquated agricultural infrastructure that maybe now is the opportunity to make it more efficient. Now is the moment because we’re starting from zero,” he told the Times.