CofC tours Puerto Rico’s southern region to witness business losses
The Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (CofC) visited the municipalities of Santa Isabel, Ponce and Guayanilla, where they were able to validate the multi-million losses in the commercial sector, especially the agricultural sector, after Hurricane Fiona ripped through the southwest.
Agriculture was one of the areas that suffered the most from this phenomenon, as farms lost all their crops including: green mangoes, local mangoes, bananas, papayas, cucumbers, and pumpkins. These farms also supply small 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,” said CofC Executive Director Liza García-Vélez.
Some 38 inches of rain fell for more than two days along Puerto Rico’s southern and southwestern coasts, prompting catastrophic floods that caused damages to businesses, mainly in equipment and inventory.
“The high cost of recovery for small-and mid-sized businesses is a critical factor to reopen operations quickly and this affects not only the business aspect but also the reopening of services to the communities and the operation that occurs around them like entertainment, sports and direct services that cannot be generated by the government,” said CofC President Cameron McKenzie.
After their visit, the businesses indicated that among their most pressing needs are electric generators, Wi-Fi hotspots, diesel, gasoline for smaller generators, water, and inventory and equipment losses.
The CofC together with the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish) and other organizations seek to understand the needs of each business through the following form where in the first question they must select the Chamber of Commerce, officials said.
“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 loss they have. Our call to the government is that we must speed up and execute to reopen businesses as soon as possible,” he said.
“The more days that pass, the economic loss is irreparable. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Luma Energy must energize the island urgently, because as a business operation and a tourist and business destination, it is impossible to enter the world market in the dark,” said McKenzie.