Belize banana growers see millions of dollars in stock wiped out

BELMOPAN, Belize, Thursday September 8, 2011 – The Banana Growers Association is reeling from two unexpected back-to-back storms which swept through their 6,700 acres of farmland and wiped out an estimated 40% of their crops between Monday, September 5, and Tuesday, September 6.

The two storms in the Stann Creek District, which clocked in winds of just about 40 mph as recorded by BGA’s weather equipment, caused crop loss estimated between US$15 and $20 million, according to the BGA.

The BGA’s farmlands between the South Creek River and the Bladen River in the Stann Creek District supports eight BGA stakeholders/farm owners and around 2,500 to 3,000 employees.

The co-operative exports solely to FYFFES in the United Kingdom  –  one of the largest importers and exporters of tropical produce worldwide — with a yearly export quota of bananas of around 4 and a half million boxes.

The BGA stated that FYFFES sets a high standard in buying bananas, and bananas beaten by the strong winds would not meet their standard.

 Stakeholders said it would take about another three months to fully estimate the extent of their loss, because some damage will only be apparent in the weeks and months to come. The storms also follow a severe drought, which had also compromised the banana yields significantly.

 Chief executive officer of the BGA, Sam Mathias, said that compared to Hurricane Iris in 2001, which resulted in a 100 % loss for the industry, the storms were very dramatic and unexpected.

 None of the farmers had crop insurance. Mathias explained that prior to Iris, a few farmers had crop insurance, and after the hurricane, the rates for insuring crops went up significantly, out of the range of most. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)