Can Puerto Rico revive agriculture?

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Héctor Monclova Vázquez gives heartening news. He writes about Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas Pagán, who sees the resurgence and promotion of agriculture as key to Puerto Rico’s future. The article stresses the ideal climate, topographical and geologic conditions of the island; marketing strategies to help the push to buy local; the use of agricultural activity to solve the unemployment problem and to guarantee food security; the idea of promoting certain crops, like sugar cane for rum production, as well as mangos and coffee for increased exportation (these crops are already being exported). I highly recommend reading the full article; it is an eye-opener.

[. . .] According to experts in agriculture, Puerto Rico, with the right public policy, is capable in the long run of generating 90% of the food the population consumes, and could be producing 40% to 50% of the food consumed locally within a short time and keep growing from there. If Puerto Rico were able to replace 90% of its agricultural imports with locally grown produce, it would represent about $3.15 billion that would stay in the island’s economy and around 85,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector. [. . .] Recent studies by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution indicate that Puerto Rico’s consumers favor the freshness of local products and would buy local if these were consistently made available on a broad scale. Studies have also shown that for every dollar spent on local agricultural products, 70¢ stays in the local economy.

For that quick turnaround to take place, Puerto Rico would have to make the best use of its fertile soil and implement public policy to help farmers become profitable through technological innovation and more effective marketing and promotion. With farms operating as businesses, the demand for agricultural laborers will grow. However, even though the island faces an unemployment rate of about 15%, half of its coffee crop hasn’t been harvested in recent years due to a shortage of laborers, representing a loss of about $17 million a year. Yet in the metropolitan areas, there are tens of thousands of people unemployed and willing to work.

ANSWERS IN TECHNOLOGY: Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas Pagán explained that some proven technologies are made accessible by the agency to farmers through the Administration for the Development of Agropecuary Companies Investments Program. “We grant 50% of the investment, up to a maximum of $250,000, to bona fide farmers, and there is financing through the Agropecuary Innovation & Development Fund to promote projects that involve different technologies,” Comas said.

[. . .] “There is a myth that local products are more expensive; however, when in season, our onions and peppers are less expensive than the imported product. A weak point in the vegetables industry, though, is that farmers provide their products mostly from February to May. And in the distribution-buyers chain, there is a certain resistance to buying local products because there is no guarantee the products will be available the whole year. With protected environments, we could grow crops like that beyond their regular season so we could enhance our competitive edge,” the secretary said.

A PRIVILEGED ISLAND: Puerto Rico has been blessed with the most favorable factors for agricultural diversity. Its geographical, geological, topographical, agronomical and meteorological conditions, which are different from region to region, are ideal for a great variety of crops. According to the Federal Soil Conservation Service, there are more than 350 types of soil—one of the most vital factors, along with water— in various grades of humidity and degree of acidity or alkalinity, which are grouped in 115 categories according to similarities in their composition. The constant temperatures of tropical weather (according to the National Weather Service, the island has an average year-round temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit, fluctuating between 78 degrees and 88 degrees, with extremes lower in the mountain areas) and rainfall levels, which peak from March to May and from August to November, also allow more harvests per year. This fact has been attractive for bioagriculture companies because more harvests a year (between three and four, while only one harvest can be obtained in most of the mainland U.S.) allow for a more prolific development of seeds—their merchandise. [. . .]

BUY LOCAL: The secretary said that equally as important as enhancing local production is that Puerto Rico consumers decide to buy locally grown food.

For full article, see http://www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com/prnt_ed/can-puerto-rico-revive-agriculture-9833.html

One thought on “Can Puerto Rico revive agriculture?

  1. Very interesting the article. I intended to go to PR for begging a very new way of agriculture, the agroforest and permaculture.
    I am from Brasil, and I have the experience of making it here.
    How is the development of this kind of culture over there?
    Thank you

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