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Puerto Rico: Hurricane-triggered crop, livestock damage exceeds $2 billion

Staff Writer | December 1, 2017
Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused more than $2 billion in damage to Puerto Rico’s agriculture and livestock industries, including leaving nearly 5,000 cows dead and decimating the United States commonwealth’s plantain and coffee sectors.
Puerto Rico
Weather   Secretary Carlos Flores
The secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Agriculture, Carlos Flores, recalled in remarks to EFE that the destruction wrought by Category 4 Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Sept. 20, occurred just two weeks after Category 5 Hurricane Irma skirted the island and dealt a harsh blow to farmers and ranchers.

“Irma alone caused nearly $45 million in damage to the sector, while Maria caused an additional $200 (million),” the official said, noting that those figures only take into account crop destruction and animal deaths and do not include infrastructure damage at plantations and livestock facilities totaling an estimated $1.8 billion.

“Ranches, fences, warehouses, refrigerators, all of it was destroyed by the hurricanes,” Flores said.

The agriculture secretary said it was important now for farmers and ranchers to request federal aid from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Department of Agriculture, adding that his agency would assist them in obtaining disaster relief.

Roughly $12 million in food aid for the livestock sector and $8 million for clearing roads have already been provided, although much more aid is still expected to arrive for rebuilding infrastructure demolished by the hurricanes.

Among those most knowledgeable about the extent of the hurricane damage is Hector Cordero, president of the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau, who told EFE Wednesday that Maria had caused immense destruction to the island’s agriculture and livestock industries.

He added that just over two months after that hurricane charted a southeast-to-northwest path of destruction through the island local farmers are only able to produce between 3 percent and 5 percent of the population’s food requirements.