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Hurricane Dean destroys banana crops in Jamaica and Dominica

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Hurricane Dean wiped out banana crops in Dominica and did major damage in Jamaica, officials said Tuesday -- more bad news for an industry that has been struggling throughout the Caribbean.

The hurricane, which roared across lush Dominica on Friday, destroyed 99 percent of the mostly rural island's banana crop, Agriculture Minister Colin McIntyre said.

In Jamaica, which was hit by the storm on Sunday, Dean did extensive damage to bananas and other crops in at least four of the country's parishes but precise figures were not yet available, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke said.

Marshall Hall, chairman of Jamaica Producers -- one of the country's biggest exporters of bananas -- said the export crop was "wiped out" in an eastern Portland parish while 90 percent was destroyed in St. Mary parish, another leading producer of the fruit.

The islands of Martinique and St. Lucia have also reported that their entire banana crops were destroyed by Dean, which caused flooding and toppled trees.

The banana industry in the Caribbean has been struggling for years because of aggressive competition from other parts of the world and the loss of preferential treatment in the European market, but it remains an important segment of the economy in the region.

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