Over the next two weeks banana growers in South Stann Creek will be clearing their banana plantations of fallen trees following two consecutive nights of heavy rains and winds on Monday and Tuesday. A preliminary assessment of the damages conducted by the Banana Growers Association place the immediate loss of the crop to around thirty percent or approximately fifteen to twenty million dollars in losses. The damages vary on each of the twenty-four plantations, some of which sustained seventy percent to a total loss of the crop. The Banana Growers Association met yesterday with members to discuss their options and a way forward. The loss has brought about added financial strain to the growers, who are already indebted following flooding and even droughts over the last few years. With this new loss, the growers will see no cash flow in the next three months. Chairman of the Banana Growers Association, Tony Zabaneh says they are exploring their options.
Tony Zabaneh – Chairman, Banana Growers Association
“We are asking Fyffes to consider the industry and buy it as second class fruit and even there it has been battered, it has a lot of scarring and things like that and that’s where they might or they might not. They might say well, we will take what you have and give you on a market based price, what we get for it is what we will give you, something like that is the way our marketers work when we have disasters like that.”
Secondary damages sustained by the remaining trees will place the total loss somewhere around forty percent. On an individual basis, some farmers will be seeing additional losses up into 2012. Elroy Foreman is the Farm Manager of Farms fourteen and twenty. He says they have lost a significant part of their farm that was being prepared for early next year. The crop would have been shipped to the United Kingdom, where the Association has an exclusive contract with Fyffes.
Elroy Forman, Farm Manager
“When the market is good in Europe they give us a higher price, more attractive which is from January to June. From July to December it is US$1.50 less per box which is BZ$3.00 so the goal of most banana growers right now is to produce between January and the end of June in the first half of the year so we maximize income. That is the reason we do crop timing every year, we take part of the farm and plan it so we harvest it in the first 26 weeks. We lost our peak production and we lost our crop timing, our goal of getting more fruit in the higher price, it is a very sad situation.”
Foreman adds that workers will also be affected by the incident. Following an approximate two weeks of clearing up, their work force will be reduced.
Elroy Forman, Farm Manager
“We’ll have to reduce workers because the income due to loss of production will be less and then we will have problems to cover the payrolls so definitely we will have to reduce significantly on the labour force so they will be impacted definitely. Here I use 140 people and in farm 20 we have another 15 to 20 people so it is quite a number of people we hire in these farms.”
Farmers continue to assess the damages to the plantations and are bracing for additional losses sustained in a third storm last night. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rene Montero and the CEO in the Ministry, Gabino Canto visited the plantations today and met with the growers. Both officials committed to seek funds through the Social Security Board and the Development Finance Cooperation. General Manager of the Banana Growers Association Sam Mathias told Love News that they have received a call from DFC representatives who will be meeting with them tomorrow to make an assessment of the damages and see what funding would be required to restore the industry to full production.