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There Will Be Pasteles This Holiday But Probably Made With Chicken Or Beef


November 16, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Green bananas and plantains, the main ingredient used to make pasteles and escabeche, will be abundant this Christmas. However, it doesn’t look that great for the local pork production.

"Pork is a bit scarce this holiday season which could mean price hikes," said Jorge Gonzalez, specialist in the pork at Agricultural Extension Service. "But we should have enough pork to supply local demand."

Agronomist Ramon Gonzalez says the amount of green bananas and plantains has more than doubled this year, compared with 1999. "The banana and plantain crops have stabilized after the damages caused by Hurricane Georges in 1998," he added. "There is no need to import bananas anymore."

According to statistics compiled by the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture, there were 372 million units of green bananas produced in fiscal 2000 that generated $22.8 million. The statistics also showed that there were 357.6 million plantains produced in fiscal 2000 that generated $59.9 million.

That may not be the case for the holiday’s main dish–pork.

Traditionally, the price of pork at lechoneras (roast pork outlets) range from $1 to $1.25 per pound, compared to roasted pig that sells from $5 to $6 per pound. In the next couple of weeks, consumers could be paying more than $1.25 a pound for pork if there is not enough to supply the demand.

"The pork industry in Puerto Rico has developed into a business that generates the most profitability during the Christmas holiday season," Jorge Gonzalez said.

Pork in Puerto Rico is mostly consumed after November 23 (Thanksgiving Day) through January. According to statistics compiled by the local Department of Agriculture, the island’s pig farmers produced 23.2 million pounds of pork in fiscal 2000 that generated $22.9 million to the economy.

Of that 23.2 million pounds of pork, nearly 70% was produced for the Christmas season.

For the past few years, the local pork industry has had a rough time competing against imported pork. It also has been battled against environmental problems that have caused numerous pork farms to close operations.

The exact number of pig farms that have closed this year was not made available.

"There were 15 pig farms in Patillas and now there are only two," said agronomist Franklin Roman, who is part of the Puerto Rico Farmers Association.

One reason that the local pork industry has had problems competing against imported pork has been due to the surplus of pork in the U.S. mainland that has kept prices low.

"There has been a surplus in pork production coming from the U.S. mainland in the last two years due to the economic instability in Asia and Europe, which has not helped the profitability of the local pork industry," Roman said.

Also, there have been cases where farmers transport pig carcasses from Florida to the island, which have had the head and internal organs removed, to sell at an inexpensive price.

"There is nothing wrong with bringing pork from the U.S. mainland, but to try to sell the product as fresh pig, rather than frozen, is false advertising," Jorge Gonzalez said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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