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'There Will Be No Food in Puerto Rico': Island's Agriculture Devastated by Hurricane Maria

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This storm is one of the costliest in history

When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, it destroyed about 80 percent of the island’s crops.

“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” farmer José A. Rivera told The New York Times. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”

Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. Its violent winds took out entire plantations, dairy barns, and chicken coops. Some farmers don’t even know where their cattle are. And, on the off chance that any produce survived the storm: Roads are blocked, stores are closed, and the power is out. Because of this, one farmer has had to dump 4,000 liters of spoiled milk down the drain each day. All in all, the country has suffered an estimated $780 million in agricultural losses.

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After Hurricane Irma ripped through the farms of Florida, experts predicted a price increase on produce. The situation in Puerto Rico could be much more dire due to the country’s almost total loss of grocery store staples, such as plantain, bananas, and coffee.

In the New York Times interview, José Rivera reflected on the loss of his farm. Every one of his 14,000 trees had been demolished, costing him $300,000 worth of ruined crops.

“Sometimes when there are shortages, the price of plantain goes up from $1 to $1.25. This time, there won’t be any price increase; there won’t be any product,” Rivera continued. “When I heard the meteorologist say that the two had turned into three and then a four, I thought, ‘Agriculture in Puerto Rico is over.’ This really is a catastrophe.”

Even when natural disaster doesn’t strike, many farmers operate at razor-thin profit margins to grow the food we eat. Those fortunate enough to live in regions unaffected by recent disasters can thank a farmer by visiting one of America’s 101 best farmers markets.

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