A year after Maria, Puerto Rico’s economy remains feeble
Source: Washington Post
ADJUNTAS, Puerto Rico — September is ordinarily the beginning of harvest in the cool, crisp mountains of central Puerto Rico. Coffee farmers pluck the ripe arabica cherries from pregnant plants and begin the painstaking work of separating, drying, hulling and roasting a commodity so sacrosanct that the Vatican once imported it — a factoid the island’s coffee cultivators and aficionados publicize proudly.
But there will be no yield this year for farmer Arthur Siemon.
Standing in an overgrown field with a Stetson atop his head, the 71-year-old looked down at the emptiness that was 15,000 seedlings, planted two years ago for his specialty coffee brand, Café de Puta Madre. They were supposed to reap a bounty of coffee cherries this year, but Hurricane Maria yanked them from the earth last September. Few across the island have fared better, as experts estimate the local coffee industry will produce about 10 percent of the coffee it normally brings to market every fall.
As a whole, the island’s agriculture industry has taken a $780 million hit from the storm, leading to closed businesses and lost jobs.