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For 21 years Hector Alejandro Santiago spread joy throughout Puerto Rico with the poinsettias, orchids and other ornamental plants he raised and sold to major retailers including Costco, Walmart and Home Depot."I will need to begin from zero," said Santiago, 43, whose Cali Nurseries is located in Barranquitas, a small mountain city 55 kilometers southwest of San Juan. He's determined to rebuild and get back into business despite the losses he estimates at $1.5 million.Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, the strongest to hit the island in a century. While most of the island's food is imported, statistics from the governor as of late 2016 show about 7,000 people working in agriculture, farm income growing and acres under cultivation up 50 percent over the past four years.Noel Lopez, 40, operates 10 dairy farms with his father and brother. Before the storm they were milking 12,000 cows, producing 85,000 litersof milk a day. Santiago, the ornamental plants farmer, said he was unable to get to his farm for five days after Maria.
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