“The leaves and fruits of my plants are full of ash,” says banana grower Hilario Batista over the phone from his home in La Palma. While his banana plantations don’t get in the way of the boiling lava flow that hit the sea on Wednesday, he still sees much of his crop fall into the water. “The fruits are destroyed by the rain of ashes. I have already swept 30 kilos of ash from my roof.
“Impossible to go there every day”
“We try to harvest as much as possible. But for security reasons, we are not always allowed to go to the plantations. Yesterday another field was engulfed by lava”, explains Elisa Martínez of the banana company Europlatano, who owns fields in the area. affected by the lava flow. .
Farmers whose plantations are still standing are often unable to care for bananas either. “Normally, we go there every day, but it’s now impossible because of the roadblocks,” explains Martínez.
La Palma is known as La Isla Bonita, the beautiful island, but also as the Banana Island. Because after Tenerife, La Palma has the largest area of banana plantations of all the Canary Islands. Half of the island’s economy therefore revolves around this “yellow gold”, and thirty percent of jobs are linked to the sector.
The consequences of the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano have hit banana cultivation hard: 1,200 of the nearly 3,000 hectares of banana plantations in La Palma have been affected, according to the Canarian Association of Asprocan banana growers, which estimates the first damage. to 72 million euros.
Volcano ash destroy banana
“If the volcano continues to spit and the lava flow expands, or if a branch grows, the damage will only increase. Every day counts,” said Manuel Redondo, spokesperson for the Canary Islands association. of agriculture and breeding Coag.
A real bane now is the jet black volcanic ash on banana trees, because you can’t just wash them off, according to Redondo. “The fruit is very fragile. If the ash gets inside, the fruit often breaks during cleaning. You can see it as the banana ripens. The ash acts like a kind of knife.”
According to Redondo, the lava flow passes through one of the most important banana areas of La Palma. Bananas are usually kept in plastic greenhouses. If these – and the pesticides stored in them – catch fire, toxic clouds can form.
Most Canarian bananas are sold on the Spanish mainland. Action has been launched on social media to encourage Spaniards to buy bananas from the Canaries in order to support affected farmers in La Palma.
Spain has declared La Palma a disaster area and is now allocating more than 10 million euros to help islanders. Six thousand of them were evacuated and more than eight hundred houses were destroyed as a result of the volcanic eruption.
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