Fiona destroyed most of Puerto Rico’s plantain crops — a staple for people’s diet

A close-up of plantain crops damaged by Hurricane Fiona.

Hurricane Fiona damaged Puerto Rico's plantain crops, like this field in Guánica, Puerto Rico. (José Jiménez/Getty Images)

Puerto Rico’s plantains — a key staple in residents’ diets — were among the crops hit so hard by Hurricane Fiona that the island likely won’t be able to produce any for the upcoming holiday season.

Ramón González Beiró, the secretary of the Puerto Rico’s department of agriculture, announced that the vast majority of fields were lost due to the storm’s heavy downpour and will take months to be restored, several Puerto Rican news outlets reported. Banana, papaya and coffee fields were also battered by the storm. He estimated the island’s agricultural industry will lose about $100 million.

NPR has reached out to the secretary and will update when we get a comment.

Cities, towns and villages throughout Puerto Rico are assessing the destruction caused by Fiona. Over 800,000 customers still don’t have electricity nearly a week after the storm, according to utility companies’ reports tracked by PowerOutage.

The role of plantains

Plantains serve as an important starch to many Latino communities. They are cherished for their versatility in cooking and are an essential ingredient to dishes like mofongo and pasteles.

Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry was already devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Roughly 80 percent of the island’s crop value was lost. Similarly, plantain and banana crops were among the hardest hit.

Ecuador, Guatemala and the Philippines are among the world’s largest exporters of plantains. Still, the crop continues to be Puerto Rico’s third largest commodity, bringing over $42 million in sales to the island in 2018.

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