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Half of Puerto Rico’s farmers switched crops in last 5 years over production problems

A study by the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics revealed that half of the island’s farmers had to change crops in the last five years due to production problems, while 47% of them confirmed having had to change the cycle or season to sow their harvests over the same period.

The “Study on the Profile of the Puerto Rican Farmer” aimed to collect information, data and statistics on farmers, their crops and incentives received by the Department of Agriculture, the federal government or the private sector. This was part of the institute’s “Food Production and Demand Index for Puerto Rico” project.

During the 2020-2021 period — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — 73% of the farmers interviewed said the biggest obstacle for their business was the high cost of materials. In addition, 59% said they faced problems due to lack of employees, while 54% reported having issues in their business due to climatic events — 64% of which attributed their losses to hurricanes.

Most farmers participating in the study reported difficulties when approaching the Department of Agriculture for assistance.

The study found that 74% of farmers confirmed they had not received financial support from the government, while 85% indicated they had not received support from the private sector. However, 47% confirmed having received some incentive or financial support from the federal government due to a natural disaster, while 40% said to have received an incentive or financial support from the federal government due to the pandemic. Of the farmers who received aid, 22% indicated it was used to purchase machinery.

Meanwhile, 53% of farmers said they had not received any support or services for the following categories: purchase of machinery, purchase of materials, rental of machinery, technical assistance, credit or financing, obtaining insurance, or marketing, processing or transforming their products.

“Knowing the needs of our farmers will help us promote and improve local agriculture and strengthen our food security. This is why we’re extremely pleased with the data obtained in this study, which will serve, among other data, as a basis to justify various initiatives that improve food production in Puerto Rico,” said Orville M. Disdier-Flores, executive director of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics.

The study, which was conducted via an electronic platform for farmers over 18, ran from May 30 to June 27. It received 160 responses, of which 108, or 68%, were considered valid.

The electronic questionnaire used a mixed-methods approach, collecting both quantitative and qualitative information. Sociodemographic aspects of the study showed that 66% of participating farmers identified as men, with the remaining 34% being women.

The age group most represented by farmers participating in the survey was 55-59 years old; 35% reported having a bachelor’s degree, while 27% indicated an annual income between $25,000 and $49,999.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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