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Damage assessments are underway in Belize following two severe storms that have impacted on the country's banana sector, damaging a significant proportion of this season's crop earlier this month.

Initial estimates from the country's Banana Growers Association (BGA) suggested that some 40% of crops (6,700 acres) had been eliminated by the storms, at a cost of around US$15m-US$20m, local media reported.

The cooperative exports solely to tropical produce group Fyffes, shipping a yearly quota of around 4.5m boxes, with the BGA expressing concern that the high standards set by the importer would leave many of its weather-hit bananas short of the standards required.

However, BGA stakeholders said that it could take up to three months to fully assess the damage, something that could be delayed further by yet more damaging weather this week.

Strong winds have been affecting the area for the past couple days as a tropical wave is bringing lots of rain to the country. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Rene Montero visited the banana growing areas this week to make his own assessment of the damage, describing the damage as serious but refusing to call it a 'crisis'.

"It's very hard to get a figure right now, but (there is) an estimation of about US$5m-US$10m that they will need immediately to recover," he told 7 News Belize.

"I don't think it's a crisis because most of the bananas that were damaged, the farmers were already harvesting, and are already preparing for export," Montero added. "I think that if we can get our act together, and the line of credit can be created from DFC and the Social Security Board – immediately – I think that within six months to nine months the banana industry can recover, and continue to export to the level that they were exporting a week ago."

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Dorian Nuñez

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