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Hurricane, earthquake and tsunamis threaten limes and bananas in Mexico

Mexico is being assaulted on all sides, with Hurricane Katia currently headed to the east coast and an 8.4 magnitude earthquake striking on the southern coast of Mexico, leading to mass evacuations and tsunami warnings. 

While it is too early to tell the scope of the threats, the news of both have led to concerns for growers across the country with Katia threatening lime and flower crops and the earthquake worrying banana growers. 

Currently, the news is full of the devastation caused by Irma and Harvey, but upcoming Katia is the biggest concern for Mexico. While it is less significant than the recent hurricanes to hit Texas and Florida, the Category 1 hurricane could still cause massive damage to the eastern parts of the country with flooding rain and damaging winds.

Currently, the storm continues to strengthen as it feeds off of the very warm water in the Bay of Campeche, potentially becoming a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 96–110 mph (154–177 km/h). Katia is expected to make landfall between Tuxpan and Veracruz, Mexico, on Friday around midnight local time, according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

As the storm makes landfall, one of the largest concerns for citrus import and exporter Don Limón is Persian limes. Andreas Schindlerto from Don Limón reports that their Persian lime packhouses are directly in the path of the storm. The packhouses are located in the city of Martinez, at the centre of where the storm will make landfall. He said that staff are currently working to limit the damage the storm may bring.  

While the east coast has had time to prepare, the west had less so with the recent and surprising 8.4 earthquake striking off Mexico's southern coast leaving at least five dead. The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck at 11:49pm on Thursday local time and its epicentre was 165 kilometres west of Tapachula in Chiapas, not far from Guatemala.

Following the earthquake the government has issued mass evacuation orders due to warnings of possible tsunamis across the region. The US Tsunami Warning System said hazardous tsunami waves were possible on the Pacific coasts of several Central American countries. Mexico was reported with the largest wave measuring one metre, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

As for its effects on growers, Mexican traders at the Asia Fruit Logistica commented, saying they were waiting to call to estimate the actual damage, because it happened during the night. “After an earthquake that hit in the eighties, this is the biggest earthquake ever since.” For this reason many are concerned about the actual damage and losses. 

The earthquake was very close to an area where bananas are grown. “Our packhouse is 4 hours away from the centre of the earthquake. So there may be no actual damage. Nevertheless it will be noticed, because of the chaos and uncertainty in the area."

The full extent of the damage caused by both threats may not be known for some time. For now, all growers on both sides can do is prepare and hope for the best. 

Publication date: 9/8/2017


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