Thursday, September 18, 2008

Recent hurricanes devastate crops in Cuba and Haiti

Guardian (UK) via McClatchy: …A busy hurricane season has hit Cuba and Haiti where it hurts most: in the heart of agriculture. This hurricane season hasn't just brought death, but also destruction to those two countries as well as to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, washing away months of food staples at a time when nations face rising global food and fuel prices.

For Haiti, the toughest loss was in the Artibonite valley, the heart of the country's already paltry breadbasket. Cuba suffered agricultural losses on both coasts, where storms wiped out not just the bananas that farmers scrambled to recover, but the entire sugar cane crop, 135,000 tonnes of citrus and a staggering 700,000 tonnes of food. "That's devastating," said Bill Messina, an agricultural economist at the University of Florida, who monitors Cuba's farming industry. "For agriculture, this is a tremendous blow."

…"The big unanswered question in this story is the food supply," said Cuba expert Phil Peters, vice-president of the Lexington Institute think tank in Arlington, Virginia. "They lost food in the warehouses, crops in the fields, and the crops that earn the foreign exchange they use to earn revenue to import food. That's three problems that add up."

Feeling an equal blow is Haiti, where widespread hunger triggered deadly riots earlier this year, and where the storms ruined more than 50,000 acres of crops and dashed any hope of reviving this nation's agriculture to replace expensive, imported rice and other food products. Government officials estimate the loss at $180m (£100.6m) - and counting.

"This couldn't have happened at a worse time for us," said Joanas Gue, the country's new agriculture minister. …."We will have a huge food deficit," said Gue.

…."We have a good recipe for a disaster that's worse than a humanitarian crisis," said Joel Boutroue, the United Nations Development Programme resident representative in Haiti. Boutroue, like others in the international community, is concerned about how long Haitians, resilient in the face of misery, will battle hunger this time around before a repeat of April's deadly riots.

Outline map of the Caribbean, apparently by Mr Bullitt, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

No comments: