Farmers count Gustav losses

Farmers on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac are counting their losses after strong winds from Hurricane Gustav damaged crops on both islands.

gustav losses

Downed banana trees in North Side.
Photo: Tammie C.

Furtherland Farms, Grand Cayman’s biggest banana farm and a large supplier to supermarkets, saw most of their banana trees toppled and broken by wind gusts.

‘We have about 20 acres of bananas and it’s about 75 to 80 per cent damage,’ said farm manager Andre Williams. ‘We will probably only be able to save 200 to 300 cases from that.’

‘It’s a big loss. We supply the whole island with bananas, usually about 350 to 400 cases per week,’ he said.

Mr. Williams said it will take eight to nine months for the East End farm to return to strength.

In North Side, Danny Rivers lost most of his plantain crop at his four-and-a-half acre farm. Younger plantain trees were still standing after the storm but most of the mature trees were ripped from the ground by high winds.

‘We have four and a half acres and I would say two-thirds of that is plantain and the whole crop is gone,’ he said. ‘I can only feed them to the cows. It’s quite a big loss.’

500-600 pounds of cassava had also tumbled over, but Mr. Rivers was confident most of it could be salvaged.

Captain Coolidge Connolly saw between 30 and 50 banana trees up-rooted at his North Side farm but most of his other fruit crops were unaffected.

He picked most ripe avocadoes before the storm arrived and is confident they will be usable.

‘I think we all feared for our banana trees. I think everyone that had banana trees lost them. But there is not much you can do about it other than chop them off, let them sprout again and keep going.’

On the Brac, where Gustav’s winds were stronger, farmers said most crops on the Bluff were damaged.

Margarito Chantilope, the island’s biggest farmer, said there is widespread damage across his 35 acres of crops.

‘I took a good licking,’ he said. ‘Mangoes, pears, cassava, neeseberry tree, banana; all of that is down.’

Mr. Chantilope supplies to supermarkets on both Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands and admits it may take up to nine months to get operations back to normal. ‘Some supermarkets will just have to start importing for a while,’ he said.

‘It’s a big loss but I’m not worried about it. I just thank god I am here.’

Delano Lazzery said almost everything on his one-acre lot on the Bluff had been flattened. ‘Everything is flat except the orange trees,’ he said. ‘I straightened up the mango trees and I don’t know how they will do but everything else is flattened.’

Mr. Lazzery said he had found peppers flung 30 feet from where they were planted.

While his crops were hit hard, he was firm in his resolve to replant again quickly. ‘I don’t worry about it. I’m not going to give up. I’m just going to go at it all over again.’

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