- Two years ago, Hurricane Maria knocked out 80% of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and plummeted the island into darkness.
- It was the largest blackout in US history and the second largest in the world.
- It took almost 11 months for Puerto Rico to restore power.
- One pasteles company lost all of its inventory – worth about $US35,000 – due to the power outages. But one year later, Tere Foods was able to bounce back, producing a record number of pasteles in time for its busiest season. Here’s how they did it.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
These are pasteles Puerto Riqueños. Made from meat and guineo and wrapped in banana leaves, pasteles are typically eaten during the holidays.
For three generations, Tere Foods in Isabela, Puerto Rico has specialised in making pasteles.
But in September 2017, just as Tere Foods had finishing preparing inventory for its busy holiday season, Hurricane Maria hit.
Situated in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, Tere Food’s municipality of Isabela experienced peak gusts of 95 mph and power outages to most of its 44,000 residents. Without electricity, the factory lost about $US35,000 worth of raw materials and pasteles.
President of Tere Foods, Yeidy Cruz: The hurricane did a lot of damage to our company because we start our season in August, raising inventory to deliver to supermarkets, and because of the hurricane, we lost all of the inventory we had prepared because of a lack of electricity and ingredients.
Narrator: Along with its inventory, almost half of Tere Foods’ employees left because of Maria. Some took time to rebuild and help family, others moved to the continental US.
Cruz couldn’t afford to pay $US400 a day to keep the generator running, so the factory closed. It led to more than $US90,000 in production losses in just over two months.
But Cruz had a goal: to reopen the factory before Christmas time.
Cruz: There was a need for pasteles and pasteles symbolise for Puerto Rican families the happiness of Christmas. And for me, it was important that in a moment so critically emotional, for me, my employees, and for all my community, to bring this type of hope and that we’re going to find a way to return to normal.
Narrator: It took 62 days for Tere Food’s electricity to come back on. And five days later, the factory reopened on November 22.
Cruz: After the hurricane, we had to import ingredients to fulfil agreements with clients. The cost of ingredients has changed due to the fact that logistics are more complicated, and the ingredients are scare, and the price has increased.
Narrator: Cruz imported meat, masa, yuca and guineo from Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the United States.
Meanwhile, her 14 employees worked overtime to replenish the inventory. Each step of the process is done by hand: slicing banana leaves, cooking the meat, mashing the filling, wrapping up the mixture and packaging them by the dozen.
In December 2017, even short-staffed, Tere Foods produced a record 126,144 pasteles just in time for the holidays.
Cruz: After we opened the doors, our production from the first day was sold out. The whole world wanted pasteles and by buying wholesale, we had the capacity to find the ingredients. The families that traditionally do the production in their houses, they don’t have the ability to get the ingredients.
Tere Foods was able to double its production rate, producing 7,000 pasteles a day in its four flavours – guineo and chicken, guineo and pork, yuca and chicken, and yuca and pork.
Cruz: We did a lot more production in a lot less time. Our efficiency had to get better because of the obligation. The conditions demanded it and we did it.
Narrator: A year after the hurrican,e and the factory is still operating with 14 employees, making about 57,600 pasteles a month.
Cruz plans to hire more employees to gear up for the holiday season once again.
Cruaz: Without the community, we wouldn’t be where we are. The same employees, we have supported each other. There are some days that are emotionally difficult for them and I “cheer them up.” And equally, them to me.
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