THEY’RE GOING BANANAS
And who wouldn’t?
by Rose Maramba
“Please don’t bury my bananas” is the collective prayer of the planters on La Palma where the Cumbre Vieja volcano is still spewing molten lava, emitting an average of 8000 to 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which is “potentially hazardous to people, animals, agriculture, and property,” according to United States Geological Survey, every day since it erupted on 19 September 2021, and scattering hard and fine ashes over an area of 1,500 hectares (nearly 4000 acres) as of the morning of 28 September.
More than half of the GDP of the La Palma island in the Canary Islands archipelago comes from bananas, the renowned platanos de canarias, a kind of generic trademark for the distinctive Cavendish cultivar in the Canaries and has a status of protected designation of origin. Thirty percent of jobs are generated by the yellow crop. Five-thousand three-hundred agriculturists are in the banana business, providing jobs to over 10,000 of the island’s 85,000 population.
Sadly, in the agricultural heartland of Los Llanos de Aridane, the lava is devouring houses, schools and banana fields as it plows its way down to the Atlantic. So far, the satellite tracking of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme has recorded the destruction of 686 edifices and 22 kilometers of road.
In general, the Canary Islands is best known as North European tourists and vacationers’ haven ALL year round though more so in the winter months because of its mild sub-tropical climate. Not a few Germans call the archipelago their “paradise”. This may therefore come as a surprise to some people that in La Palma, the farthest island northwest of the archipelago, the primary industry that drives the economy is not tourism but bananas!
La Palma produces more than 35%, or an annual 150 million kilograms, of the bananas in all of the Canary Islands. It’s the second-largest producer, next only to Tenerife and ahead of Gran Canaria. Weekly, between 6000 and 8000 tons of La Palma bananas are shipped to the Spanish Peninsula and other parts of Europe.
Who can foretell what measly number of bananas would be harvested now, in view of the Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption? It isn’t just that the lava buries everything that gets in its way as it lumbers to the sea. The ashes settle not just on the fruit but on whole plants and kill them off.
As of this writing, the lava which is now “Hawaiian-type” fluid, is only 1000 meters from the Atlantic. “Effusive” lava moves faster and is able to reach a wider area.
The magnitude of the catastrophe wrought on the once buoyant banana sector bears no thinking. It is feared that the irrigation infrastructure might have been damaged and bananas need to be regularly irrigated.
As if all of these weren’t enough, it may be that the insurance companies would not pay the damages of the volcanic eruption and that only floods and hurricane-force winds are covered.
The pessimism – for some it’s despair – of the La Palma farmers is quite understandable. One can only hope they’ll find a way to recover their calamitous losses and be back on their feet again. Sooner than later.
Related post: Volcanic Eruptions: So Beautiful, So Destructive
>Featured image (generic image)/Julia Kuzenkov on Unsplash
>Banana plantation/Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA3.0
>Valley of Los Llanos de Aridane/Willy Horsch, CC BY2.5
>Spain map/User: Rajzin, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA3.0
>Volcanoc eruption , Hawaii/GPA photo, US Dept. of State, PD
>Banana harvest on truck/Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA3.0
>Canary Islands bananas/uploaded by topicchio via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY2.0
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