Business

Sandy hits Jamaica Producers hard

90% banana crop loss

By Shamille Scott Business reporter

Sunday, October 28, 2012    

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Jamaica Producers (JP) is feeling the wrath of Sandy.

The damage inflicted by the Category One hurricane last week is significant, said Jeffrey Hall, JP's managing director.

Sandy hit Jamaica on Wednesday, uprooting trees, and downing utility poles with wind speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour. It also wiped out the bananas on JP's 500-acre St Mary farm, which also includes pineapples and cassava.

"It was a direct hit and we suffered a 90 per cent loss of our (banana) crops," he said.

JP is the largest producer of bananas on the island. The company sells the fresh fruit, along with St Mary's banana chips through its Tropical Foods subsidiary.

The immediate plan is to revive the farms, said Hall.

Banana trees that lay flat will be re-set and fertilisers will give support for banana suckers, Hall said, adding that nutrients are now being fed to the next generation of bananas by a team.

"It's a rough time for banana farmers but we will pull through this," he said.

There will be no immediate shortage of snacks, however.

"We have done an inventory and there is enough to supply," Hall said.

The company is still assessing the cost of the damage and cannot give a figure just yet.

"We have to know acre by acre. We can't know now," Hall said.

Banana production is inevitably affected by hurricanes, Hall said, noting "Jamaica has been through this before."

To prepare when disaster strikes, Hall said the company diversified its farms. The company will be increasing its supply of pineapple by 30 per cent, he said, noting that the crop will only be sold as fresh fruits and will not be sold to juice makers.

JP also plants cassava and Hall said its production will increase steadily.

The focus of the farm is to cater to the Jamaican market.

For the second quarter ending June 30, 2012, the conglomerate made $46 million after-tax compared to earnings of $47 million over the same three months last year - when excluding a one-off gain of $727 million for the sale of portfolio investments during the period.

JP Tropical has benefited from the acquisition of a controlling interest in Tortuga International Holdings and a 50 per cent joint venture interest in Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, both of which made a positive year-to-date contribution to the divisional result, JP reported.

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