Crop losses hurt farmers’ market

Grand Cayman’s new farmers market, Market at the Grounds, will go ahead again this Saturday, despite many farmers reporting significant crop losses after Hurricane Dean.

The market’s committee members will talk with vendors over the weekend to see whether they have enough surviving produce to sustain the market on a weekly basis, said committee member Errol Watler.

If not, they will look at having the market every two or three weeks.

Although crops such as banana, plantain, avocado and mango suffered heavy losses in Hurricane Dean, Mr. Walter said there were many other fruits and vegetables that proved more resilient.

At his East End farm, Mr. Watler lost about half of his banana and plantain trees, but his pumpkin, cassava, callaloo, papaya, watermelon, corn, scotch bonnets and ackee all fared much better.

He expects other farmers will still have a good deal of produce to sell at the market, despite the damage.

Arts and crafts, nursery and food vendors will also ensure there are lots of diverse wares on offer, he said.

Yesterday, the Caymanian Compass reported that farmers on Grand Cayman suffered heavy losses from Hurricane Dean. North Side took the brunt of the storm, with some farmers saying they have lost over 80 per cent of their banana, plantain, mango and avocado crops.

Following that report, Andre Williams, manager of Furtherland Farm in East End – the biggest banana plantation in the Cayman Islands – said 65 per cent of his 20,000 plus trees had been damaged.

Mr. Williams, whose bananas stocked the three main supermarkets and smaller shops, will now have to import bananas until his crops bounce back over the next six to nine months.

Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Adrian Estwick said Wednesday studies by his Department had confirmed that bananas and plantain crops were worst affected.

But tree crops also suffered from salt-spray damage and from winds ripping immature fruit from trees, Mr. Estwick said.

‘Both of these impacts will definitely affect farmer’s revenues over the next seven months,’ he said.

‘With bananas and plantains, it will take up to nine months for new plants to reach back to a mature, harvesting stage.’

Dean may also have forced an early end to the local avocado and mango season, he added.

On the upside, the Department of Agriculture received no reports of livestock loss, although salt-spray damaged some pastures.

A lack of rain during Hurricane Dean exacerbated salt damage to pastures and crops, Mr. Estwick said. The Cayman Islands Metrological Services recorded only 0.44 inches of rain during the 18 hours in which Hurricane Dean was closest to the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Estwick said farms on the windward side of Grand Cayman – the East and South – were the worst affected by salt damage, although heavier rain in the past week will help the recovery process, he added.

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