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Carrots in short supply for Christmas thanks to Hurricane Fiona

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There is a shortage of Bermuda carrots for sale this year (File photograph)

Festive dinner plates may be short on carrots this holiday season owing to crop damage brought on by Hurricane Fiona.

The storm brushed past the island as a Category 4 hurricane in September when carrots were growing.

Carlos Amaral, the president of the Bermuda Farmers Association, explained that many farmers’ crops were damaged by the high winds.

He told The Royal Gazette: “Some of the larger growers that do more acreage lost their fields — lost their crop because of the hurricane. The thing with carrots is, even if you reseed after a hurricane you can’t make up the time.

“Those with material planted for the Christmas market unfortunately lost them, hence the availability is scarce.

“Many farmers had fields with carrots germinating about one to two inches up that couldn’t withstand the hurricane winds.

“We have hurricanes every year but we don’t know what wind direction they will bring so you take a gamble on where to plant them.

“If it’s not protected, the hurricane will slam them. There’s no rhyme or reason — a lot of guys planted multiple fields but still lost everything.

“As farmers we pride ourselves on growing fresh, healthy food for the holidays and the rest of the year, but this was just a perfect storm between the timing and intensity of that particular hurricane coinciding with that crop coming out of the ground.

“Some farmers planted earlier but it was also a very dry summer.”

Carlos Amaral, the president of the Bermuda Farmers Association (File photograph)
Q&A with Government on shortage

Can you give any indication as to the severity of the carrot shortage this year?

Unfortunately, the combined efforts of the summer drought and September storm activity caused significant damage to the seedling carrot crop. While farmers did their best to replant, they lost many carrots, resulting in fewer carrots in the stores.

Can you explain why carrots cannot be imported? Is there any way around it?

The importation of carrots is prohibited under a quarantine embargo — Agriculture (Control of Plant and Pest Disease Regulations)1970.

Importation of carrots is not allowed due to major risks associated with the carrot rust fly. This major pest can thrive in Bermuda’s climate. The maggots of the fly feed on the developing carrot, causing it to rot and become unsaleable. It is very difficult to treat as the carrot is underground, and the use of systemic insecticides are not suitable for use on products for consumption.

Do you have any message for anyone out there panic-buying carrots?

While there may be fewer carrots than expected, the public is advised to visit their local farmers, including Junior and Patty Hill, Carlos Amaral and Danny Renault, who have some supply. In the meantime, Bermuda’s farmers have made every effort to replant carrots for the coming months.

People have taken to social media to lament the lack of carrots but many farmers have said there is some availability, although limited, including in grocery stores and authorised farmers’ markets, and roadside stalls.

One store, the Garden Market on Serpentine Road in Pembroke, has put a bag limit on the sale of carrots. A post on its Facebook page reads: “Carrots are back in stock but supplies are limited! Only 2 bags per customer.”

Mr Amaral said: “People are panic buying carrots, getting five or six bags — two bags is enough for most families for a Christmas dinner.”

The problem is compounded by an import ban on carrots which Mr Amaral said is in place to protect local crops from the carrot rust fly, which is prevalent in places such as Europe and the United States.

“It is to prevent the accidental introduction of a pest in Bermuda which could create major problems,” Mr Amaral said.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said during a press conference on food security yesterday that the embargo was also in place to protect farmers economically.

He said: “The embargo is in place to ensure that farmers get the maximum return on whatever they can produce, so that’s one reason there is an embargo on carrots at the moment.

“However, we will do whatever we can to help whatever they need … they will get support [from the Government] in whatever production they can do.”

Mr Roban also addressed concerns from commercial farmers that potatoes will be in short supply.

“I am happy to remove those fears for all of the country. After meeting all the sanitary requirements needed to ensure the ongoing good health of the island’s environment, both seed potato and strawberry will be a part of this year’s upcoming crop, and shipments have arrived of the seedlings of both to the island.”

Mr Amaral said that carrots were not the only staple crop affected by Hurricane Fiona.

“People have short-term memories and forget the hurricane in September and the knock-on effect that had.

“It didn’t just affect carrots. Normally you would be picking avocados until February and March, but that crop was lost. It was knocked off the trees.

“Local bananas are another thing people are scraping around to find. It takes six months to a year to rebound and bounce back.”

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Published December 22, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated December 22, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Carrots in short supply for Christmas thanks to Hurricane Fiona

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