Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s food supply — here’s what the island’s farms look like now

After the passage of Hurricane Maria, a man rides his bicycle through a storm-damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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After the passage of Hurricane Maria, a man rides his bicycle through a storm-damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the devastation to Puerto Rico has sunk in. Many of the island’s 3.4 million residents are still without access to power, running water, and health services.

The Category 4 storm also left Puerto Rico without most of its farmland, roughly a quarter of the island’s land divided into over 13,000 farms.

After Maria barreled through with 155-mph winds, it wiped out approximately 80% of the territory’s crop value, Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s agriculture secretary, told The New York Times.

Here’s what the island’s farms look like post-Maria.


Hurricane Maria was one of the costliest storms to hit Puerto Rico’s agriculture industry.

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A damaged banana plantation is seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017.
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Reuters

The island lost $780 million in agriculture yields, according to the department’s preliminary figures.


The Category 4 winds ripped leaves and bark from trees, and flattened most of the island’s farmland.

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Bananas plantations drowned at Quebradillas Puerto Rico.
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Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times


Other crops drowned in flood water, which have decimated entire plantations.


Plantain, banana, and coffee crops were hit the hardest.


The storm also destroyed dairy barns and industrial chicken coops.

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Alexandra Carbone/Facebook

A number of grazing horses were killed after landslides careened down mountains.


On some farms, chickens drowned in the flood water.


Unlike in the continental US, where industrial-sized farms are normal, many of Puerto Rico’s farms are smaller, family-owned operations. Below, one farmer looks at his family’s farm after Maria, which destroyed a greenhouse, shed, and a large number of crops:

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Raul Rosado/Facebook

Source: University of Illinois


A boulder now blocks the adjoining road.

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Raul Rosado/Facebook

The destruction from Maria will have grave consequences for Puerto Rico’s food supply and agricultural industry. Although the island imports the majority of the food it consumes, its farming industry has been undergoing a renaissance and growing 3% to 5% every year since 2011.

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Raul Rosado/Facebook

Local staples, like sugar cane, tobacco, citrus fruits, and plantains, are now largely gone.

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Raul Rosado/Facebook

“Sometimes when there are shortages, the price of plantain goes up from $1 to $1.25. This time, there won’t be any price increase; there won’t be any product,” José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, told The Times.


It could take at least a year to get farms back up and running, Rivera said. The soil will need to recover, and farmers will need to replant trees and crops.


The recovery will be long. But Flores, Puerto Rico’s agriculture secretary, told The Times there could be an opportunity to make the rebuilt farms more sustainable and efficient.

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A damaged farm is seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico September 21, 2017.
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Reuters