The Dominican Republic is in a position to fill the empty slots left by banana exporters in Honduras and Nicaragua where banana crops were devastated by Hurricane Mitch. While in the DR, Hurricane Georges caused much damage to crops, one of the primary areas where bananas are grown, the Northwest, was unaffected by Hurricane Georges. The president of the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana, Fernando Cabrera said that Dominican banana exports could surpass US$15 million in 1998. He said that the European market, the leading market for Dominican bananas, purchases 55,000 metric tons a year. He forecast an increase in this level of exports for 1999. Cabrera explains that investors in the production of bananas have invested more than RD$2,500 million (more than US$160 million) in irrigation systems, equipment, machinery and packers. The production of bananas employs over 55,000 persons.