BioTropic GmbH: Aftermath of storm damages on banana plantations

"Dominican Republic: "We have losses of up to 50 percent"

Volker Schmidt is an agricultural engineer and a tropical expert of BioTropic GmbH in the Dominican Republic. Born in 2002, he lives in the north of the country and runs the BioTropic office there. He checks all the processes on site - from growing the Milagros bananas to their transport to Europe. He also regularly travels to Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru, where the producers grow organic avocado’s, ginger, turmeric and mango’s. Schmidt is in close contact with the local organic farmers and provides assistance when questions arise.

Volker Schmidt, agricultural engineer in the Dominican Republic

Schmidt writes to the company from the Dominican Republic:
"We have already had two hurricanes in 2017: first Irma and then Maria. This extreme weather hit us very hard. We have losses of around 50 percent, and this is on lands that we planted only a year ago.”

“At the end of August 2017 it started: hurricane Irma came with strong winds, so we had 15 to 20 percent losses through wind breakage. In forestry or agriculture, ‘wind breakage’ stands for bent or broken plants due to the wind - in this case our banana trees were affected. After breakage however, the perennials usually will grow again, as the underground rhizome can continue to form saplings. The banana harvest would have stabilized again in a few months.”

Wind breakage in the organic banana plantation

But then ‘Maria’ came directly after that. This time, the torrential rains were particularly dangerous. There were floods of the banana plantations in the Mao region. The problem with flooding is that the rhizome can not absorb oxygen anymore. The plant dies off completely and must be replanted.

The "Villa Lobo"-firm is particularly affected. Already in November 2016, the fields were completely flooded. As a result, we have reinforced and raised the surrounding dams. That work and the new plantings have cost us around 100,000 dollars (84.000 euros) so far. Renewed moderate flooding these dams would have withstood, but not the floods of this year. The result here was a loss of 80 percent. In addition, the water led to the appearance of the Sigatoka fungus, which causes damage to the plants and their fruits. As a result, the export volume of our Milagros bananas is currently suffering. So we'll have to replant for the second time, which is time-consuming and expensive. In addition, it will take another year before we can harvest again.

Storm damage is visible everywhere

Global warming is on everyone's lips. Here in the Caribbean we can clearly see the consequences. Although storms are a natural phenomenon in this region, in recent years they have become stronger as a result of rising sea temperatures. With catastrophic consequences, of course. And not only for Milagros bananas, but for humans and the environment in general. We hope for an early reappraisal of the situation.

In a bid to motivate our the employees, we support the football team of Villa Lobo with new clothing and football shoes, irrespective of the consequences of the storms. This will not make our bananas grow any faster of course, but sports and games do boost the sense of community among the locals.

For more information:
BioTropic GmbH
Daimlerstraße 4
Germany - 47167 Duisburg
Telephone: +49 203 51 87 60
Fax +49 203 51 87 63 60

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