Series of tropical storms tests endurance of Brooks' papaya crops
by Christina DiMartino | September 30, 2010
The nearly continual daisy-chain of tropical weather systems that has moved
across the Atlantic Ocean this summer has held Central American producers
at full attention.
Tropical Storm Alex hit central Belize June 27, bringing severe thunderstorms
and winds of 40-60 mph.
Tropical Storm Karl hit northern Belize Sept. 15, delivering severe
thunderstorms and winds of 40-60 mph. Karl later turned into a Category 3
hurricane before hitting Veracruz, Mexico.
Most recently, Tropical Storm Mathew hit southern Belize Sept. 25, bringing
severe thunderstorms and winds of 40-50 mph.
Brooks Tropicals LLC, headquartered in Homestead, FL, grows its papayas in
Belize. The elegant papaya trees are long and lanky, with the heavy fruit
growing at the tops of the thin trunks. A strong storm cannot only tear the
fruit from the trees, it also can cause the tops of the trees to snap completely
"A direct hit from any of these storms would have set our papaya production
back months," Bill Brindle, vice president of sales for Brooks Tropicals, told
The Produce News. “Fortunately we were only partially hit, with the worst
damage coming from Tropical Storm Karl. Karl knocked down several of our
fields up near the Mexican border. Flooding and wind from all three storms
caused tree losses throughout the entire Belize growing region.”
Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but the
Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory points out that there is
nothing magical in these dates. Hurricanes and tropical storms have
occasionally occurred outside this six-month period, but the timeline was
chosen because it is when over 97 percent of tropical storm activity has been
recorded throughout storm-tracking history.
Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, added, “We have
definitely had our share of severe tropical weather. Now that it has passed, we
can focus on getting production back to normal.
“We plant new papaya fields every month,” she continued. “And we are looking
forward to some of those new fields coming on line to replace acreage lost to
the tropical storms this year.”