The Before and After of Agriculture in Puerto Rico

09 May 2017 by 0 Comment News 406 Views
Agriculture represents a new chapter for the Puerto Rican economy. Agriculture represents a new chapter for the Puerto Rican economy. El Nuevo Dia

History shows that Puerto Rico relied on agriculture as the main source of economic income since the Borinquen Indians. Records from a 1935 census have evidence that approximately 246,386 people depended on agriculture for living.

With tropical temperatures and fertile soil, the land was used to produce fruits and vegetables that were exported. About 24,000 pounds of sugar cane were exported to Spain in 1553 and for the year 1939, sugar shipments valued at $53,604,381 were exported to North America.

Additionally, tobacco and coffee combined had a value of more than 8 million dollars in 1920.

These facts and sums of money don’t represent the agriculture activity in Puerto Rico today.

What happened?

The focus was shifted to manufacture and industrial work, making agriculture take a second place through the years. The community started looking at agriculture as a second-hand job and for various generations the land was ignored, creating the negative consequences surfacing today.

Government reports state that 75% of the land in Puerto Rico is fertile but empty. Meaning that, throughout the island there is a vast amount of ground with the potential to produce, not just fruit and vegetables but a positive impact on the economy.

Where is the harvest?

Since 2008, Puerto Rico started experiencing the first signs of an economic recession that ended in bankruptcy as of May 2017. After many years focusing on tourism and infrastructure as the sole income, the government finally took notice that agriculture is part of a bigger structure that can help the island recover from an economic hole.

The shift on mentality

Agriculture stopped being an effort of the people who live in farms. Puerto Ricans are actually moving into the center of the island to take charge of pieces of land that have been abandoned for many years.

The Puerto Rican debt is not going anywhere and government officials must work for long term solutions. Why? Because the island needs to take inventory of what it has and make a strategic plan to multiply those resources.

From 2012-2014 farm income grew 25% generating more than $900 million. Local supermarkets and restaurants proudly announced they would be serving products from local farmers.  

There is still a long road ahead, but the fact that the government has recognized the power that agriculture holds is a big step. Also, the work that independent entrepreneurs are doing to build a local agricultural economy represents a new harvest for Puerto Rico and the future generations.

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