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Sandy devastates banana industry

Hurricane Sandy inflicted major damage to St Mary, downing utility poles, uprooting trees and wiping out farms.

KINGSTON — Jamaica Producers is feeling the wrath of Sandy.

The damage inflicted by the Category One hurricane last week is significant, said Jeffrey Hall, JP’s managing director.

Sandy hit Jamaica last Wednesday, uprooting trees, and downing utility poles with wind speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour. It also wiped out the bananas on JP’s 500-acre St. Mary farm, which also includes pineapples and cassava.

“It was a direct hit and we suffered a 90 per cent loss of our (banana) crops,” he said.

JP is the largest producer of bananas on the island. The company sells the fresh fruit, along with St Mary’s banana chips through its Tropical Foods subsidiary.

The immediate plan is to revive the farms, said Hall.

Banana trees that lay flat will be re-set and fertilisers will give support for banana suckers, Hall said, adding that nutrients are now being fed to the next generation of bananas by a team.

“It’s a rough time for banana farmers but we will pull through this,” he said.

There will be no immediate shortage of snacks, however.

“We have done an inventory and there is enough to supply,” Hall said.

The company is still assessing the cost of the damage and cannot give a figure just yet.

“We have to know acre by acre. We can’t know now,” Hall said.

Banana production is inevitably affected by hurricanes, Hall said, noting “Jamaica has been through this before”.

To prepare when disaster strikes, Hall said the company diversified its farms. The company will be increasing its supply of pineapple by 30 per cent, he said, noting that the crop will only be sold as fresh fruits and will not be sold to juice makers. (Observer)

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