The devastation of Hurricane Maria destroyed a year’s worth of crops and agriculture in Puerto Rico, leaving the American territory ill equipped to feed itself, the New York Times reports.
“There will be no food in Puerto Rico,” Jose Rivera, a plantain farmer from Puerto Rico, told The New York Times. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.”
“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 said. “When I heard the meteorologist say that the two had turned into a three and then a four, I thought, ‘Agriculture in Puerto Rico is over.’ This really is a catastrophe.”
The apocalyptic viewpoint is echoed by Puerto Rican officials. “The devastation in Puerto Rico I believe has set us back 20 or 30 years,” Jenniffer Gonzalez, a non-voting representative for Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress.
“Agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to natural disasters,” Carlos Flores Ortega, secretary agriculture for Puerto Rico, told The NYT. “But it’s also the one that can have the speediest recovery, and it’ll be the great surprise in the Puerto Rican economy, because we’re going to come back stronger.”
Puerto Rico will almost certainly need recovery money from the federal government, likely requiring additional disaster relief appropriations.
Gonzalez estimates that the cost of repairs will be far above the $7 or $8 billion spent on recovery after Hurricane Georges in 1998.
Much of the island has been without power since Maria swept over it, and only about a quarter of the country’s telecommunications systems were working as of Sunday evening, the Wall Street Journal reports.
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