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Port of Dunkirk - a collateral victim of hurricanes Irma and Maria

Over the first fortnight of September, hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused immense damage in the West Indies, notably in Guadeloupe and Martinique where almost all of the banana plantations have been destroyed. 

The banana sector in the West Indies directly and indirectly employs 15,000 people, of which 10,000 are in Martinique. The economic impact on the Port of Dunkirk could be heavy as all bananas from the West Indies, i.e. 270,000 tons per year (70,000 tons from Guadeloupe and 200,000 tons from Martinique) transit though the port before going on to ripening facilities (notably in Rungis) followed by French and European supermarkets and markets. 

The Port has said that it is too early to deliver a comprehensive assessment, but we know that all of the plantations in Guadeloupe are at a standstill and 60% of those in the North of Martinique (30-40% of those on the South of the island have remained intact). This would probably represent a 200,000 ton loss for the Port of Dunkirk. 

The impact risks being more important than that of Hurricane Dean in 2007. The Belgian group Conhexa, specialists in fruit, vegetable and frozen product storage, is also concerned by the impact of the hurricanes. They store all of the bananas from the West Indies in their warehouses in the West Port of Dunkirk (Dunfresh and Dunfrost). They were already effected by Hurricane Dean, and last year finally announced a €7 million investment in expanding Dunfrost. 

Philippe Ruelle, Director General of UGPBAN, says that production in the West Indies will fall from 5,000 tons per week to 500. “We have to wait 9 months for production to start up again. But getting back to normal will take at least two years as the growers cannot go back into production straight away.”

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