Farmers count losses from Dean

Grand Cayman’s agricultural sector is counting the cost of Hurricane Dean, with many farmers reporting large losses after winds ripped fruit from trees.

Battered banana and plantain plants

Winds from Hurricane Dean battered banana and plantain plants in North Side. Photo: Tammie C. Chisholm

Cayman Islands Agricultural Society President James Sherieff said the damage was worse in North Side, where farmers are reporting that about 80 per cent of bananas, plantains, mangos and avocadoes were stripped from trees.

Danny and Timothy Rivers, who have a farm in North Side, had more than 85 per cent of over 2,000 plantain plants uprooted or destroyed.

Plantain was the River’ biggest crop, accounting for over one-third of their farming operation Danny Rivers said Tuesday.

The plants would have started bearing fruit in the next month.

‘It’s a big loss, there is no question about that,’ Mr. Rivers lamented. ‘I’ve just brought down a truckload of the smaller plants (that were destroyed) that we couldn’t make use of and there are about two more truck loads up there to go.’

Fortunately, their cassava and mango plants fared a lot better, he explained.

Fellow North Side farmers Zelmalee and William Ebanks had between 200 to 250 banana and plantain plants uprooted, many still bearing their fruit.

This represents about one-fifth of their total farming operation. They plan to cut out the some of the uprooted trees, but will allow younger plants to grown back naturally.

As Dean approached, the Ebanks’ harvested what they could from the plants, but much of the fruit was not ripe enough to cut down.

‘It was wild,’ Mrs. Ebanks said. ‘The wind took off everything that was left on the trees.’

Other farmers in North Side seem to have suffered similar damage, she said.

However Coolidge Connolly, who has plantations along the Queens Highway in North Side said his farm escaped the storm pretty well.

Mangos and breadfruit were blown off by the winds, but he was able to recover some of these and he had no trees uprooted.

‘I was lucky and I’m thankful,’ he said. ‘It could have been a whole lot worse.’

Mr. Sherieff said farms in East End are also reporting significant damage, although heavy surrounding foliage gave some crops a measure of protection.

Farmers that had nets will have recovered some of their fruit, but few farmers have them installed, Mr. Sherieff said. He hopes more farmers will consider installing nets in the future.

With the new farmers market at Stacy Watler Agriculture Pavilion having gotten off to an impressive start just one weekend before Dean’s approach, the timing of the storm couldn’t have been worse, Mr. Sherieff said.

And because the storm approached from the East, many of the island’s farmers, who are mostly located around East End, North Side, Bodden Town and Savannah, saw their farms take the full brunt of the storm.

But the damage could have been much worse, he added, if farmers had been forced to endure salt water or rain water flooding.

The Cayman Islands National Metrological Services recorded only 0.44 inches of rain from 7pm Sunday 19 August, through 1pm the next day, when Dean was closest to the Cayman Islands.

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