Hurricane Grace was both friend and foe to farmers in Veracruz, which bore the brunt of the storm’s wrath when it carved a destructive westward path across Mexico on Saturday.
In the municipality of Papantla, community landowners in La Concha lost many hectares of orange, banana and corn crops to Grace, which slammed into the Veracruz coast as a Category 3 hurricane.
“Many people say it was the work of the Lord,” said Tomás Velázquez Pérez, who lost virtually all his crops.
“… The majority of the community landowners produce between 13 and 15 tonnes of oranges per hectare but there will be less production this season and orange prices might go up because there will be few [available] in December,” he said.
“A tonne might go up to 2,000 pesos [about US $100] because [large-scale buyers] usually pay 1,300-1,500 pesos or even 1,000 pesos,” Velázquez said.
His corn crop, which he grows to help feed his family, was completely destroyed by Grace and her powerful wind.
“We’re sad, worried, look at it,” Velázquez told the newspaper El Universal as he stood in his ravaged corn field.
He said 40 community landowners met with a local official to assess the damage and request help from authorities. But no assistance has yet been offered. Farmers in communities such as Agua Dulce, Arroyo Colorado, Arroyo Grande, La Guásima and Poza Verde are in the same situation, Velázquez said.
Farther north in municipalities such as Tihuatlán, Hurricane Grace dealt a “death blow” to farmers, said Sergio Ruiz Valencia, president of a local branch of the National Farmers Confederation. The losses stemming from the damage of crops caused by Grace are incalculable, he said.
Corn, banana, papaya, citrus and pepper crops were all affected, Ruiz said, adding that farmers are unable to access emergency financial support previously available to them due to the government’s abolition of the disaster relief fund Fonden.
“The countryside is a disaster and there’s no Fonden now. It’s a very critical situation in the farming sector; in Tihuatlán alone 70% of its territory is used for agriculture,” he said.
One benefit of the hurricane for farmers in northern Veracruz is that it helped replenish dried up dams and gave a good soaking to parched farmland. Drought-stricken Tampico Alto, Pueblo Viejo and Ozuluama were among the municipalities that benefited from the heavy rain brought by Grace.
León Almazan Zavala, a local official in Pueblo Viejo, said the rain will spur the growth of grass, ensuring that cattle have food to eat in the coming months. In Ozuluama, dams filled to at least 60% capacity, said a local agriculture official.
Despite the heavy rainfall over the weekend, the three northern Veracruz municipalities still need more rain to avoid farmers having to truck in water at a high cost. They remain hopeful that there will be decent rain in September and October, the newspaper El Sol de Tampico reported.