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#415704 - 09/08/11 08:03 AM Weather stormy yesterday  
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Over the past few days there have been a number of severe thunderstorms that have been affecting the country. Most of the time thunderstorms pass over rather harmlessly, but since Monday night, the Banana industry has taken another significant blow as a result. The damages were not confined to only the banana industry, as we will find out later in this newscast. Equally, wind gusts have not been the only culprit for the damages, as there have been a few reports of lightning strikes as well. Today Love News visited the National Meteorological Service to find out what is causing the severe weather conditions over Belize and how soon we can start to see a general improvement.

Dennis Gonguez, Chief Meteorologist
“We’ve been seeing a series of severe thunderstorms that have been moving northward across the country. They come up from Honduras and Guatemala and they are pushed northward due to a southerly flow that has been over us since Tropical Storm Lee was in the Gulf of Mexico, ever since then that southerly flow has been with us, it has been bringing up these thunderstorms from Guatemala. The storms have migrated northward as far as Belize City and subsequently weaken as they head further north. We’ve noted that there were some squally conditions associated with these thunderstorms, we recorded in Belize City, winds gusting to about 35, 38 miles per hour so they are pretty potent thunderstorms. We’re looking possibly for another bout of thunderstorms tonight and then decreasing, less severe activity tomorrow night and conditions improve coming onto Friday and Saturday. They have been moving from the south to the north and by the time they reach the north of Belize City the thunderstorms weaken significantly so the southern part of the country has been taking the brunt of these thunderstorms. We should be aware of the dangers of lightening and avoid exposed open areas, and objects that are pointed and tall, we try to avoid those objects.”

If you are planning to spend the tenth marching, Gonguez says that the weather should clear up by the weekend, so you need not alter those plans.


#415705 - 09/08/11 08:04 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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Meanwhile a Belize City woman was scared out of her wits when a strong gust of wind blew down her house which stood about twenty feet high. The homeowner, Cherry Tasher, told Love News that she had just gotten up when she felt the breeze and then everything came crashing down. The storm also brought an iconic piece of Belizean history tumbling down as what is considered the oldest mahogany tree met its fate.

Hector Silva - aspiring historian
“That area where this mahogany tree lies was many years ago the offices of the Belize Estate and Produce Company. It is claimed that this tree might be over 140 years old. Now this tree has been there as a relic, a landmark to show the spot where in those days you had Bob Thurton, Robert Sidney Thurton across the Street and on the other side that was the Belize Estate because Holy Redeemer, some of those buildings were owned by those big logging companies and the warehouses were right along that river edge from distributor right up to the sawmill so this mahogany tree speaks many volumes of our history.”


#415706 - 09/08/11 08:05 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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Banana Crops Mashed Up By Thunderstorm

As we told you at the top of the newscast, last night's thunderstorm was a violent one - mashing up homes in the city, frying the main transformer in Independence Village, and wreaking havoc on the banana fields in the Cowpen area. Today, Jim McFadzean travelled south to see the damage which experts say mounting into the millions of dollars in losses.

Here's his report:

Jim McFadzean Reporting

Whether from an aerial view or an onsite inspection, the devastation on the ground is real, and it is widespread. Thousands of trees uprooted during a 48 hour period. Wind gusts estimated at between 40 to 50 miles per hour decimated the network of plantations nestled between the South Stann Creek and Bladen Rivers.

Eugene Zabaneh - Chief Financial Officer, BBGA
"Last night has been the 2nd night of storms that we've had in the banana belt, and the first night, it wasn't that bad. I think we suffered, as an industry, anywhere between 8-10%. Now, last night was very severe, and as you all can see, the extent of the damage on some farms was as much as much as 80%., and I'd say, industry-wise, anywhere between 50-60%."

None of the industry's 24 plantations was spared.

Jim McFadzean
"What has your inspection, so far, has shown in terms of loss?"

Phil Castenadas - Banana Grower
"The first damage was about 30. I think the second damage went up to 40% of my losses."

Jim McFadzean
"How do you plan on recovering from this loss?"

Phil Castenadas
"The only plan right now is that I have to look for finance because it will cost me approximately between $5,000 - $7,000 per acre to recover that, which includes fertilizer, nematicides, agricultural practices meaning, herbiciding, pruning, de-leafing, aerial spraying. It will take me about 6 months will take me before I start to bag, and 3 months later to start to get back my production. So I need about 9 months more to recover all my losses."

Not since Hurricane Iris in 2001 has the industry been dealt such a severe blow. The question now, is who to run to? With me right now is the Chairman of the Belize Banana Growers Association, Mr. Tony Zabaneh."

Jim McFadzean
"Mr Zabaneh, how do you recover from this type of devastation? Who do you turn to?"

Tony Zabaneh - Chairman, Belize Banana Growers Association
"Well, since Iris, we were promised by everybody - all the stake-holders, Government, the banks, Fyffes - go ahead, put it back as best as you can, and all of us will come in and help. Not one of the sources helped. Everyone of us had to go to the banks, borrow money, and even so, some of us are still not out of those debts yet. This blow has really put some of our growers on their bending knees, even myself, as I must say, because I think that my farm was one of the best farms in the industry. And right now, it's fully - I would say fully - 100% on the ground."

Jim McFadzean
"Have you all decided some possibilities - international funding - or are you going to stick to local source for funding?"

Tony Zabaneh
"Well, we haven't really sat down as an association yet. You all came this morning to really see the damage and assess it, and we are going back into a meeting as we have lunch. And after that meeting, we will decide who to turn to. But our sole source of funding has been the social security who has loaned us some monies, and we are still outstanding to them, but we are paying them on a weekly basis, $25,000, and on a monthly basis, $100,000 to reduce the loan."

Jim McFadzean
"With that in mind, do you think that Social Security will be receptive, the fact that you still owe something around $5 million dollars?"

Tony Zabaneh
"Um, Yes and No. It's possiblly yes because they industry, as you see it, is a good income earner for Government. It brings in $40 - $45 million US on a yearly basis. And with that, we can pay them."

The cleaning up has already started, but the recovery is expected to be a long, drawn - out process.

Jim McFadzean
"I'm assuming that part of the process will by trying to rescue and save what's considered the daughter plant. Am I right?"

Eccleston Irving - Managing Dir., Riversdale Dev. Ltd.
"Well, that's what they are going to try and do, but what we are seeing here is that when it drops down totally, we're going to have to cancel out that part totally."

Elroy Foreman - Manager, Delta Pride Ltd.
"What we have here is they production unit has been interrupted. Banana plants usually consist of a mother, daughter, and a granddaughter plant. And here, the mother has fallen, so this daughter plant, we cannot continue with it. We cannot continue any further with this. We will have to uproot it, and a do a new plant."

Jim McFadzean
"So this is a loss, this instance?"

Elroy Forman
"Yes, this is a loss. In this scenario, we still have connection with mother plan, so this one, yes we can move forward with this. We have connection, the production unit has not been totally interrupted, and we have translocation of nutrients to this one, so yes, we will just apply fertilizer and continue the normal agronomic practices on this one. We'll continue with it."

Like the citrus and sugar cane industries, the BGA is cash strapped after facing the devastating floods of last year, and one of the country's worst droughts in history, this year!

Eugene Zabaneh
"This year, we suffered one of the worst droughts in modern history, and it took a heavy toll on our production, and our plants. We had to spend three times as much we would normally spend for our irrigation, for that specific period."

The damage is estimated to be in the millions, anywhere from five to ten million US dollars! And, with no warnings coming from Mother Nature, the devastation wreaked on all 24 of the country's banana plantations is certain to prove a major setback for this fragile industry.

The Banana industry employs more than 3,000 people of whom an estimated 2,000 are expected to be directly affected in the form of layoffs and/or a reduction in wages and working hours.

Channel 7

#415711 - 09/08/11 08:18 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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Freak Thunderstorm Sends House Tumbling Down

Last night at midnight, a powerful thunderstorm came rumbling up towards Belize from Honduras. It swept through Southern Belize and roared up to the city - and it left a path of destruction.

It decimated crops in the banana belt and damaged houses in the city - while also destroying an electrical transformer in Independence - which has caused a blackout that will last more than 24 hours.

Indeed, last night's freak thunderstorm may well have caused more damage than Tropical Storm Harvey.

We'll tell you all about the storm, and its aftermath tonight. And we start in the Port Loyola area of Belize City where one house blew down and another right across the street lost its roof.

Monica Bodden found out more:

Monica Bodden Reporting

The rail on the stairs of this wooden home - stood taller than the house itself… While the steps for it - laid out on the muddy ground. This house that once stood 20 foot high in the air house - was blown flat to the ground by strong winds.

Picture this -This house was once as tall as this neighbor's house that is just right across the street.

Cherry Tasha - Home Owner
"I woke up, and I was pulling on my phone, because I was charging it. I then felt water blowing through this window here, so I was trying to get a plastic to put at the top there. That's when I felt a heavy breeze blow from this direction, and then I heard a crack, and I said, 'God, no please'. That's when the house fell flat on the ground."

Monica Bodden
"So you heard a loud crack?"

Cherry Tasha
"Yes, I heard a crack, and I felt a stiff breeze and a vibe that the house was going to go down. It just fell right down, flat on the ground. My daughter was on the bed here. She flew a bit off the ground, fell back on the bed, and screamed out."

Monica Bodden
"How old is your daughter?"

Cherry Tasha
"She is 8 years-old."

Monica Bodden
"At the time, how many people were inside the house?"

Cherry Tasha
"It was only her and me."

After her house came tumbling down, Tasha said she dialed a couple numbers for help - which came just minutes after.

Cherry Tasha
"I saw that I landed on the ground and we were safe, so I thanked God that nothing happened to us. I got up and dialed a number for someone to come help me out. The police man, who is my neighbor, looked like he called the police, and 5 minutes later, they came and forced open the door so that I could get outside."

Monica Bodden
"At this time, was the area still windy, rainy?"

Cherry Tasha
"It was still raining and the breeze was still blowing. They helped me to pack up a little bit of clothes, and they took me to my sister's house."

Today her television set, her radio and other household appliances were placed in the pan of this red pickup truck as she along with friends tried to sort out the rest of what can be saved among the chaos.

Monica Bodden
"Would you say that you have lost everything in your house? Was everything destroyed?"

Cherry Tasha
"Everything nearly got destroyed. I didn't really check to make sure that they all broke. I don't know what exactly is still good until I have cleared it out."

Monica Bodden
"But the house is in a mess."

Cherry Tasha
"Yes, the house is in a mess. I don't know who will help me clean this out, but I will do something about it."

Tasha says she has been promised help from her area representative - but that help won't come until October. So for the meantime, she along with her 8 year old daughter will just have to shelter in her panades shop.

Cherry Tasha
"Right in my mother's yard, in my panades shop, I will have to stay, my daughter and me. Mr. Boots said that he would fix it in October. So I will have to wait until he can get the money to fix it."

And for her neighbor Cynthia Anderson - she too was affected by last night's strong breeze. Half of her roof was blown off and landed in her neighbor's yard.

Cynthia Anderson - Homeowner also Affected by the Wind
"Last night, due to the hard rain and winds that blew, it blew off the house top."

Monica Bodden
"Around what time was this?"

Cynthia Anderson
"I am not sure of the exact time last night."

Monica Bodden
"Were you guy awoken by what was going on?"

Cynthia Anderson
"Yes, it blew off a whole section into the neighbor's yard. It landed into the side of their house."

Monica Bodden
"And this is the top where?

Cynthia Anderson
"This is by the living, kitchen, and dining area. I went to the Minister this morning, and he asked me to full out a form to get some help. So I did that."

Monica Bodden
"Do you have to drop off that form?"

Cynthia Anderson
"Yes, I have to drop off this afternoon after I have finished with the estimate."

Monica Bodden
"But for the meantime, you don't have any roof. If a rain comes..."

Cynthia Anderson
"There is no roof, and everything is wet inside."

Monica Bodden
"How frustrating is it? What will you do for tonight?"

Cynthia Anderson
"I don't know. My daughter is trying to get some of the stuff out to get them dry. We'll have to try to patch it up with whatever is there. All the boards are broken up, so I don't know we will do it."

If you would like to assist Anderson you can call telephone number 6-2-4-1-9-3-7.

And if you would like to assist Cherry Tasher and her 8 year old daughter, you can reach them at telephone number 6-2-3-4-9-4-2.

Both ladies are awaiting help.

Channel 7

#415712 - 09/08/11 08:19 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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A Terror Of A Thunderstorm

And while the storm mashed up those houses; again, it was just a thunderstorm - but a very powerful one.

We asked Chief Meteorological Officer Dennis Gonguez what made this thunderstorm so particularly strong:

Dennis Gonguez - Chief Meterologicial Officer
"We noted that on Monday night, we did have some severe thunderstorms, and also Tuesday. We looked at squally conditions with wind gusts in the vicinity of 35-38 miles per hour gusts. We saw the thunderstorms moving northward from earlier Monday evening. We were able to predict that thunderstorms would affect Southern Belize. However the severity of the winds, we didn't quite have a good handle on it until yesterday."

Jules Vasquez
"Are the two storms on back-to-back nights related?"

Dennis Gonguez
"The same patterns existed, and the pattern will persist through tonight and possibly, it look like we will see some changes come Thursday night and Friday. So it looks like it should improve come Friday and Saturday."

Jules Vasquez
"So we may expect to have similar condition again tonight?"

Dennis Gonguez
"There is a high possibility of thunderstorm activity tonight."

As Gonguez noted, the storm was most powerful in southern Belize. The proof of that is in the decimated banana belt - which we'll show you a little later. Lightning also damaged the main transformer at the Independence substation - leading to blackouts across Independence and in part of Placencia.

While power has been restored to most areas, the replacement transformer is only just reaching Independence so at least two areas of that village currently have been without electricity for 18 hours and that will extended to "24 hours - plus" as the new transformer is installed.

Channel 7

#415713 - 09/08/11 08:21 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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A Minor Landmark Felled By Thunderstorm

So far we've told you about a pair of houses in the city, a main transformer in Independence Village and vast acreages of banana crops damaged by last night's powerful thunderstorm.

And tucked in somewhere between all that major damage, a sort of city landmark was also destroyed by the thunderstorm.

The stately mahogany tree which has been standing in the Holy Redeemer playground yard for decades, possibly more than a century was zapped by a lightning bolt, and the proud, stout tree which has provided shelter to generations of children, snapped like a twig.

It happened after 2:00 am - just after the thunderstorm descended on the city - and a neighbor spoke lovingly of her former favourite tree and the moment of its undoing under the thunderstorm's hot breath:

Ophelia Carillo - Lived next to the ancient Mahogany
"This morning, a thunderstorm happened. Wind was blowing and there was a lightning. The wind blew open my room door. That's how I got up. My nephew sleeps right next to the window, and woke me up because of the breeze blowing in the house. All of us got up, and we looked through the window. We couldn't see the tree due to the rain being so thick. We heard a lightning strike. We actually heard the cracking of the tree. That was 2:23 this morning. It's very sad to lose the mahogany tree because it is a 100+ years-old tree. Even up to know, when my children goes and play in the yard, I would sit by the tree and watch them playing. That's was the shelter spot from you were small. It is the shelter for the kids for the yard. It is valued to everybody in different ways, because they experienced the tree differently. From old to young, everyone has a value for this tree. I can't tell you, but for me it's very sad, because it's not there again. It will disappear. It will take long for a next one to grow. By then, I'll already be dead."

We were trying to dig up some history on the tree - to see how old it was.

No one seemed to know for sure, and some guess-timates say that it stood for well over a century.

But there are no sure answers and it is a mystery, that, apparently, only the old tree would know the answer to...

Channel 7

#415715 - 09/08/11 08:25 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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FYFFES? Banana Industry crisis caused by hard rains

Belize exports bananas to Fyffes; the first fruit brand in the world and arguably one of the most important fresh produce companies in Europe. But banana production is under threat after two nights of thunderstorms battered the country’s banana belt. That means that exports from the south of Belize to Fyffes’ headquarters in Ireland and the United Kingdom will drop by forty percent and millions of dollars are projected in damages. Four million tones per year are exported but that will now reduce significantly at a time when market prices are holding their own. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports from the South’s battered banana belt.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

From a bird’s eye view, the banana farms in the south appear normal, but on the ground it’s a completely different story. After two nights of thunderstorms, the banana industry has suffered millions of dollars in losses with forty percent of the overall crop being damaged.

Sam Mathias

Sam Mathias, General Manager, Banana Growers Association

“All the farms in the industry were hit to a certain degree and losses would have been between ten and fifty or sixty percent depending on which farm you look at. But overall I would have thought—and again this is preliminary—you’re looking at a loss of around twenty million US dollars.”

Eugene Zabaneh, Banana Grower/CFO, Banana Growers Assn.

“The trees that have blown down or the trees that have fruit, that’s thirteen weeks of bagging figures of fruiting and that’s twenty-five percent of our total yields. It’s three months of the year’s production that’s gone. At present we have been exporting between ninety to a hundred and five thousand boxes per week and I think with some good luck probably we may be going all the way down to thirty or forty thousand boxes per week.”

Elroy Forema

Winds of up to fifty miles per hour split some trees in half, while others were completely uprooted.

Elroy Foreman, Manager, Delta Pride Farm

“We have a loss of like forty to fifty percent. Actual fallen plants is thirty percent and the fruit that we have hanging, we have scarring; natural scarring because the bunches were being battered by the winds. The movement creates scarring on the fruit. To pack it, we would have to throw away most of the fruit because the quality specs is of high standard.”

Filancio Castaneda, Owner, Farm 1

“The bunches that have been produced; shot plants, most of them have been damaged. And the un-shot plants also, they are broken but the majority is the fruit loss.”

Delahnie Bain

Filancio Castaneda

“So what do you do now?”

Filancio Castaneda

“What we have to do is to chop them good, chop the bunches because those cannot be commercially exported; look at the jacks that are good, start to put fertilizer, nematicide, incorporate it to the soil again to be strong. The weak ones, dig them out and replant it; just like starting a new farm. And this will take about six months to nine months to produce again.”

Francisco Cruz, Owner, Farm 13

“I have to identify a financing source and then we have to look for the labour so that we can rehabilitate as soon as possible. The idea here is to do it as fast as possible to get rid of everything damaged and to wait for your next crop coming to get it in good shape.”

Francisco Cruz

Delahnie Bain

“So how long do you think it will be before you are back on your feet?”

Francisco Cruz

“I think it’s about six months before I can start to get something back.”

But apart from fallen trees, there are other factors that contribute to the losses in the industry.

Elroy Foreman

“When we have the mother plants that fall over, there’s an interruption in the production unit. We have the mother plant, daughter and granddaughter. When the mother plant is removed the daughter plant becomes an orphan and that is converted into a very unproductive sucker which doesn’t give a commercial bunch and we’ll still have to throw it away.”

Sam Mathias

“The losses are not just the blue bags you see on the ground, it’s also the damage to the fruit that is hanging up and was shaking around. Although you can’t see it immediately, once that fruit is harvested and put in the processing tanks, you start to see the damage and because of that damage the fruit cannot be packed and cannot be exported.”

The banana industry is extremely vulnerable to weather conditions and was already struggling financially, before disaster struck this week.

Eugene Zabaneh

“The industry has just come out of one of the worst stress caused by the drought that we have suffered and that has really put a heavy burden on the cash flow of the industry. We have had to be spending three times as much as we normally would spend on irrigation and again it had an impact on our yields, our production. So we’re just coming out of a very difficult period to now have the disaster thrown on us, which we were hoping that we would now be recuperating from that long hard dry that we have suffered.”

Sam Mathias

“We had crop insurance—well some farms had crop insurance—prior to October 2001 then we had Hurricane Iris which basically destroyed all the farms. Now after that event, crop insurance went up I think three fold or maybe even fourfold and it was no longer economic; it was just not feasible to have crop insurance any longer. So no farms at the present time have crop insurance.”

Eugene Zabaneh

“During the past we had a disaster fund set up and during last year we accessed those funds because of the large damages that we were having from floods. Last year we had three large funds and we had to use up the funds that we had to offset the losses and to rehabilitate our levies and our roads and drainage that the damage that was caused by those floods. So we totally exhausted those funds.”

The industry stakeholders hope to meet with government, Fyffes and other lending institutions to finance the rehabilitation of the farms. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

According to the farmers, the industry has not recovered from the financial devastation caused by Hurricane Iris in 2001.

Channel 5

#415771 - 09/09/11 07:53 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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Freak storms cost banana growers US$15-20 million

After two consecutive nights of thunderstorms the Banana Growers Association, BGA, has suffered an estimated 40% in crop loss which they estimate will amount to US$15-20 million in financial losses. Between Monday, September 5, and Tuesday, September 6, there were two storms with winds of just about 40 mph in the Stann Creek District, as recorded by BGA’s weather equipment.

The BGA’s 6,700 acres of farmland sit between the South Creek River and the Bladen River in the Stann Creek District.

The BGA stakeholders/farmers were all onsite with us today talking about the severity of the freak storms and their effects on the industry, and furthermore, what efforts would have to be taken for them to fully recover. We note that the BGA had only just been recovering from a bad drought season.

The BGA — which exports solely to FYFFES, in the United Kingdom, which is one of the largest importers and exporters of tropical produce worldwide — has a yearly export quota of bananas of around 4 and a half million boxes.

Stakeholders told us that it would take about another three months to fully estimate the extent of their loss, because some damage will only be apparent in the weeks and months to come.

We spoke with the CEO of BGA, Sam Mathias, and two stakeholders/farm owners, Eugene Zabaneh, Sr., and Phil Castaneda, who gave us their feedback on this sudden natural disaster.

Mathias told us today that compared to Hurricane Iris in 2001, which resulted in a 100 % loss for the industry, this duo of storms is, “very dramatic, because they were unexpected, and because they were two storms back-to-back.”

None of the farmers had crop insurance. Prior to Hurricane Iris, just a few farmers, Mathias told us, had crop insurance. After the hurricane, however, the rates for insuring crops went up significantly.

According to the members of BGA, they will seek financial assistance in the form of a loan, not a handout. Mathias told us that they will definitely appeal to the Government for assistance to the industry after this setback.

Mathias says that the rehabilitation of the damaged crops needs to start now, and that that alone will take a considerable amount of funds: “Well really, there is only one way of coming back from this, and that is to replant the plants that have been uprooted and to reap what is left of the remainder of the plants,” he explained.

There are a total of eight stakeholders/farm owners in the BGA who are responsible for around 2,500 to 3,000 employees total; the wages of these employees account for about 50% of total revenue.

Phil Castaneda told us that they will have less need for some of the employees, because of the damage to so many plants, and this should last for close to six months, which is the estimated length of recovery.

Mathias told us that with the unavailability of the BGA to meet FYFFES’ quota, they are uncertain which other banana-producing country will fill in.

Castaneda also estimated that the amount of money it would take to recover the crops, per acre, would be around 5 to 7 thousand dollars.

Zabaneh, who has been a member of the BGA for the past 35 years and owns 1,150 acres of the total of 6,700 acres farmed by the BGA, told us that the recovery process “is going to be difficult; we just got out of a heavy drought which cost us a considerable amount as far as irrigation, and even with good fruit quality.

“We don’t know really, because the industry at this time finds itself financially strapped, and the farmers are totally financially exhausted. We don’t know; it’s difficult to say where we go.”

Zabaneh also reiterated that they will seek a loan or some form of financial assistance, not a handout: “We are in a commercial business and so we have to make sure we can fend for ourselves.

“It’s difficult, but as far as probably getting extensions on our facilities to take us through the next six months, I think that’s going to be our challenge, and we would have to see how we could make the proper arrangements, because for the next three months, we won’t be having any revenues coming in,” he said.

We asked Zabaneh to tell us exactly why he has remained in an industry which is so susceptible to natural disasters such as this. He replied, “Well, quite honestly, it’s like our kids, you know. We have our kids and they are ours, and what to do, we have to live with them; it’s just like that with our business and it’s our livelihood, and that’s how we make our living.”

When we visited the site of the destruction today, we saw that only the banana trees with bananas on them had been blown down, because of their weight. The BGA told us that FYFFES sets a high standard in buying bananas, and bananas beaten by the strong winds would not meet their standard.


#415775 - 09/09/11 08:23 AM Re: Weather stormy yesterday [Re: Marty]  
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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.


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