To solve the shortage of plantain and bananas caused by Hurricane Maria almost three months ago, Puerto Rico is now proposing importing those products from Latin American countries.
The Puerto Rican Minister of Agriculture, Carlos Flores Ortega, said that they were evaluating several producers in Latin America to increase the purchase of this item in order to satisfy the local demand, which has increased due to the Christmas festivities.
Agricultural officials identified quality products in Costa Rica and Colombia, and are also considering importing Ecuadorian bananas if they meet the standards for their importation to this Caribbean island.
Minister Flores Ortega said that, thanks to the agreements in progress with the Latin American nations, they would be able to meet demand in Puerto Rico without risking local plantations with the introduction of possible new diseases.
Currently, he said, the country receives 28 containers with 1,080 boxes of bananas each week through the Association of Producers of Bananas of Puerto Rico, which supplies the local markets that request it.
Puerto Rico's production was highly affected by hurricanes Irma and Marķa, which struck the island two weeks apart last September, and authorities expect this amount of imports will allow meeting the national demand until Puerto Rican production gets back on its feet.
Puerto Rico needs an average of 35 weekly containers of high quality plantain that meets the phytosanitary requirements required by state and federal regulations, stated Flores Ortega.
The Minister of Agriculture said that they already had agreements with Colombia and with the main food distributors in Puerto Rico to import some 20 containers of bananas that will arrive to the country in the last week of December.
A technical-scientific group traveled with the official to Ecuador in order to increase the importation from 10 to 15 containers of plantain per week, which will arrive in the country in the first weeks of January.
Flores Ortega recently signed a collaboration agreement on importation, which establishes that wholesalers will reserve a 30 percent quota for Puerto Rican banana producers.