(Dec. 24) Aftereffects of heavy rains in Costa Rica are disrupting banana, melon and root vegetable shipments.
The rains pounded the region, causing flooding, mudslides and two deaths Dec. 8-15 along the Caribbean coastline, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Earth Observatory unit.
Shannon Barthel, melons product manager for Central American Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., said she expects Central American and other shippers to lose a couple of weeks of production of cantaloupe and honey dew.
“We expect supplies to be staggered, extremely limited and sporadic,” she said. “There will be a two-week gap. That rain will affect the Costa Rican cantaloupe deal until the middle of February.”
While Central America provides the majority of U.S. cantaloupe shipments during the first of the year, Costa Rican shipments are much smaller than Guatemala and Honduras. By the end of January, Guatemala will cease shipments to the U.S. while Honduras will be in full production along with Costa Rican shipments, Barthel said.
The rains delayed melon planting for two to three weeks, Barthel said, in the central Costa Rican production area that stretches from San Jose to Puerto Limon.
Rains also affected Costa Rican banana production, said Jeff Avila, director of marketing for Fresh Del Monte Produce Co. Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.
“The heavy rains were significant and had an impact on our production,” he said. “The effect of the rains were compounded by an unusual cold spell in Guatemala, which impacted our ability to make up for some of the lost volume coming from Costa Rica.”
Banana production was at full strength the week of Dec. 22, and Del Monte doesn’t expect other production gaps, Avila said.
Marta Maitles, director of communications for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif., said damage to banana plantations was localized.
“It was compounded by a cold front from the north,” she said. “The area that received and retained water will affect productivity in the short term.”
Del Monte’s melon production was less affected in its primary central Pacific and northern Pacific growing re-gions, Avila said.
“What we did was to intensify our efforts to prevent potential damages due to fungus and or bacteria’s at-tacks,” he said. “It was a successful prevention program so the melon damages were minimum. There will be no production gaps.”
Costa Rican melon production has already started for Del Monte, Avila said. The company’s first loads are ex-pected to ship Dec. 29 to the U.S. and Europe, he said.
The storms have cut production of Costa Rican root vegetables and squash for Central American and Caribbean produce importer New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla.
“The root vegetables rotted underground because of all the water the region received,” said Eddie Caram, New Limeco’s import manager. “There’s been a lot of damage.”
Yuca and malanga root vegetables along with calabaza squash are scarce and seeing higher prices, Caram said.
Bonnie Cavanaugh, a spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International Inc., said flooding harmed some of the international marketer’s Costa Rican banana and pineapple farms, but the firm was still evaluating damage Dec. 23.
December is typically the Caribbean slope’s wettest month before the end of the rainy season, according to NASA.