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Aug 8, 2012

People spared, but agriculture suffers from Hurricane Ernesto

A little over twelve hours after Hurricane Ernesto made landfall near Mahahual in neighboring Mexico, the all clear was given. While there was no loss to life, there were damages to industry in the north. While Ernesto was gentler than Hurricane Dean, at the commercial free zone, the cash machines are not ringing, but the economic losses are adding up. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

In the aftermath of the storm, preliminary assessments reveal that the sugar cane and corn crops suffered damages.

 

Duane Moody

Duane Moody

“As you can see, it is still raining here up north. But we decided to take a stroll on the Patchakan Road in Corozal District and we came up to this sugar cane plantation. As you can see to my left, the mature sugar cane crop is bent over, but it is to my right that the smaller plants are immersed in water. It is expected that this will have adverse effects on the Sugar Cane Industry.”

 

Hugo Patt

Hugo Patt, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture

“When we look at what had transpired with Dean in 2007 and we compare it to what we had yesterday or last night, there has been a significant difference in the way in which damages were then and what we have now. From the assessment that we have done—and this is without our technical people—as you would notice in terms of sugar cane, the only sectors that were damaged would be the plant canes and those cane fields in the low-lying areas. I can tell you that as a consequence of the good payment that cane farmers had, there was a lot of investments done in rehabilitation of cane fields. In those areas where we know that those areas are prone to flooding, I think that we have major works that need to be done in order to flush out the water. Otherwise, I am afraid that we are going to lose those fields to the water. We have seen major losses as to the corn fields.”

 

Duane Moody

“I know last time with Dean; it was the papaya industry that was really affected. Were they affected this time around?”

 

Hugo Patt

“Well we had visited some farms—we have not completely visited the area; but from those that we have visited—I was surprise to find out that the tall mature trees were still standing. Last time when we had Dean around, when you visited a field, you can see from the entrance way to the exit—trees all down. Fortunately enough, this year was not the case. I think that it is the best scenario for the papaya industry since we are having some serious problems when it refers to the papaya production. But as I can tell you from what we have seen around, the papaya industry did not suffer major losses.”

 

Several farmers, who were facing economic hardships prior to the storm, experienced major losses to plantain crops.

 

Emilio Cowo, Farmer

“I have an acre of corn, it was laying down. As you can see a lot of plantain trees also drop down. The cane, since dehn small, neva drop down. It will practically bring down the economic status right.”

 

Duane Moody

“What does this mean for your produce? Is this what you sell to make a living?”

 

Emilio Cowo

Emilio Cowo

“Yes, well you know the cane is the economic factor in Corozal. We also sell the plantains, we also eat them. Of course we plant some corn and that is also for eating.”

 

Duane Moody

“So now that you’ve lost that, it kinda puts a dent on your tables as well as your pockets, right?”

 

Emilio Cowo

“Yeah well it lowers it especially that Corozal right now is on a low economy. The jobs are very minimal and so we have to try and plant some things like corn, plantains, bananas and other things to just minimize the cost of living.”

 

Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Hugo Patt, says that others who sustained a loss, should make a report to the Agricultural Department.

 

Hugo Patt

“If your field was damaged because of wind or water, please inform it to the Ministry of Agriculture here in Corozal so that we can take measures as it referrers to that. But indeed there are some sectors, specifically those prone to flooding that we are going to need intervention to assist those farmers.”

 

At the Corozal Free Zone, damages were also sustained. Snug at the Santa Elena border with Mexico, C.E.O., Raul Rosado, says that additionally to some structural damages to billboards and property, the loss was felt on the economic front—up to a million dollars lost each day the Free Zone remains closed.

 

Raul Rosado, C.E.O., Corozal Free Zone

“We have been so fortunate that up to date we have not had any major incidents in the Free Zone. All this preparedness has led to what today we can safely say and thank god, there has been little to no damage suffered in the free zone.”

 

Raul Rosado

Duane Moody

“Tell us about the damages that you said. I know you said little, but what were some of those damages that you guys saw?”

 

Raul Rosado

“Mainly were the billboard signs falling; the worse one was one billboard that the breeze flew against a glass window and broke it—and that would be the major one—beside that, it is just the usual billboards that we had that had been flying around.”

 

Duane Moody

“I know two days the free Zone is not opened; what kinda damage is that doing financially?”

 

Raul Rosado

“Economically, it is hurting us especially at this point when we have summer vacation in Mexico; that’s when we have a huge influx of visitors coming to the zone. That’s the time that investors take to have their sales grow. We have not really sat down to put it to dollars and cents. The chairman and myself are here today; we will be doing that assessment probably tomorrow morning when we have other investors along with us and we take it together as a board to make decision. But yes it is hurting. It doesn’t only hurt investors; it hurts even the economy in Belize since we also assist with revenues to government with social fee that each container pays to government. So it will be hurting, but like I say I will not going into dollars and cents yet and give wrong figures. But yes it is going to hurt us.”

 

Rosado says that the Free Zone will be reopened officially at six a.m. on Thursday. Duane Moody for News Five.

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