Eighteen months after Hurricane Mariaslammed into Puerto Rico, and for the first time in its modern history, innovative measures are being taken to solve the problem of food security with the construction of an agricultural structure resistant to natural phenomena.
In an interview, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture of Puerto Rico Carlos Flores Ortega said that after the hurricane hit there were many lessons that have helped officials in Puerto Rico understand the fragile points of the island’s agricultural system.
“We have never done enough. In Puerto Rico, 85% of the food we consume is imported. Governor Rossello’s agricultural plan is an eight-year plan that seeks to double the amount of food produced on the island,” the secretary said.
For Flores Ortega, dealing with emergency situations due to natural disasters is not a new issue. In 1998 he served as undersecretary of Agriculture, and he recalls that one of the great mistakes made at that time was to rebuild the system to the same as it had been in the past.
“The goal is not to restore what we had before. The goal is to provide support to farmers to have the necessary resources to withstand the impact of a hurricane,” added Flores Ortega, while explaining that the agency has already identified several key points to achieve the level of resilient agriculture needed by the island.
Among the points to work on is to have additional sources of renewable energyto minimize dependence on the central energy system, as well as to re-plan agricultural areas to have efficient access to the farms, develop stronger structures to store products and encourage farmers to purchase insurance against losses due to natural disasters.
The government’s statistics suggest that less than a third of the island’s farmers had crop insurance, a reality that prevented the agriculture industry from standing up more quickly in the aftermath of María.