By The Star Staff
The Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (PRCC) visited the municipalities of Santa Isabel, Ponce and Guayanilla on Wednesday, where they were able to verify the million-dollar losses in the commercial and agricultural sectors.
The impact of the rains, winds and floods caused by Hurricane Fiona’s passage on Sunday dealt a heavy blow to families, businesses and farms, among other sectors, mainly in the southern and western regions of the island.
Agriculture was one of the sectors that suffered the most as farms lost all their crops, including green mangoes, local mangoes, bananas, papayas, peppers and pumpkins. The affected farms also supply the island’s small supermarkets and chain stores.
“The loss of the crops and harvests is a double blow to our economy since it forces us to import more goods to replace the harvests that were lost, which in turn increases costs and the harvest cycle begins again,” PRCC Executive Director Liza García Vélez said.
Throughout the gastronomic route of Guayanilla, the experience was very different from that of Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that ravaged the island in 2017. Fiona brought about 38 inches of rain over two days and the surge from the sea entered businesses, causing damage mainly to equipment and in many cases the loss of all the inventory.
“The high cost of recovery for PYMES [the Spanish acronym for small and midsize businesses] is a critical factor in resuming operations quickly and this affects not only the businesses but also the reopening of services to the communities and the activity that occurs around them such as entertainment, sports and direct services that cannot be generated by the government,” PRCC President Cameron McKenzie said.
After the visit, the business owners said that among their most pressing needs are electrical generators, hotspots for Wi-Fi, diesel fuel, gasoline for smaller generators, water, and inventory and equipment losses. The PRCC along with the Department of Economic Development & Commerce and other organizations seek to understand the needs of each business through the following form: https://primexpr.wufoo.com/forms/situacian-inmediata-huracan-fiona/ where in the first question users must select Chamber of Commerce. Anyone unable to fill out the survey or wishing to discuss any other topic can write to firstname.lastname@example.org by email or through WhatsApp to 787-529-7451.
“Our call to businesses is to quantify the damages that include cleanup and recovery processes, those who are insured, follow the steps for claims, access incentives and provide data on losses,” McKenzie said. “That helps us make visible the real losses they have. Our call to the government is that we must speed up and execute in order to reopen businesses as soon as possible. The more days that pass, the economic loss is irreparable. The Electric Power Authority and [transmission and distribution system operator] LUMA must energize the country urgently, because as a business operation and a tourist and business destination, it is impossible to enter the world market in the dark.”