Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brooks Tropicals awaits hurricane damage report

Excerpts from, Aug. 22

Brooks Tropicals Inc. was preparing to survey damage to its papaya-growing regions after Hurricane Dean slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula.

During this interview the storm had just made landfall. Brooks' Homestead officials were in contact with only a handful of the 1,200 workers at its Corozal, Belize, papaya operations. Bill Brindle, Brooks’ vice president of sales management, said his "packinghouse and grove managers were in the cone of the storm’s path."

Brindle said the avocados and tropicals grower-shipper expected to suffer damage but said "the company should know more about the storm’s damage by Aug. 24 or Aug 27."

Brindle said, "Hurricane Dean, a Category 5 storm, passed slightly to the north of Brooks’ operations."

Jose Rossignoli, Brooks’ director of national sales, said "the company shut down its operations Aug. 20 to allow its workers to take care of their families."

In anticipation of the monster storm, the company had secured buildings and took other preparatory steps such as filling diesel tanks.

"Brooks officials planned to fly to northern Belize to assess damage as soon as the area’s airport reopened," Brindle said.

Most of Brooks’ groves are a couple of miles inland. Brooks is North America’s largest papaya importer. Belize remains second only to Mexico in shipping papayas to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.