Agriculture Takes Hit From Recent Flooding

December 12, 2008

Following nearly two weeks of flooding, the government is beginning to take stock of the damage across the Caribbean plains and coast.

Floodwaters have subsided, and all families have left temporary shelters set up in late November and early December, said Reinaldo Carballo, spokesman for the National Emergency Commission (CNE).

“The municipalities and government institutions are doing the evaluations of damage and work that needs to be done. All that’s missing is that information needs to be sent to the CNE, which will draw up an emergency plan,” Carballo said.

Agricultural crops took a big hit and damage there is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.

Jorge Sauma, general manager of Costa Rica’s National Banana Corporation (CORBANA), said the sector is facing $30 million in losses. Flooding and heavy rain damaged 10,000 hectares of banana plantations, resulting in the loss of approximately 4 million boxes of bananas, about 5 percent of annual production.

“But remember, there is also the loss of another 4 million boxes in the next quarter, and we are still seeing about damage to infrastructure,” Sauma said.

Banana’s sister crop, the plantain, also took a serious hit, with devastating consequences for small producers. More than half of the Caribbean’s plantain crops – 3,200 hectares – could be a total loss, said Eduardo Artavia, the Atlantic regional director for the Agriculture Ministry.

Nearly 1,400 small producers will take the brunt of the losses, particularly indigenous farmers in the canton of Talamanca, where Artavia said he believes losses could be around 100 percent.

An estimated 412 hectares of rice crops that were at the point of harvest and were to be sold nationally were also lost.

Artavia added that more than 2,000 hectares of pasture will also likely be rendered useless by the flooding.

The Agriculture Ministry official said that a “conservative estimate” of total agriculture losses for the region is $35 million, but the number will likely rise.

Artavia said the government is currently looking at issuing emergency credit lines and other forms of aid for the region, including requesting $4.8 million from a $12 million Inter-American Development Bank loan to aid farmers around the severely hit community of Sixaola, on the southeastern border with Panama.

Estefania Jiménez, a meteorologist with the National Meteorological Institute, said another cold front would be arriving in Costa Rica this weekend, bringing cool temperatures, high winds and some rain, but nothing like what caused the recent flooding.

 

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