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LEFT OF CENTRE – Enforce existing legislation

Dr Frances Chandler

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THE FIRST THING we must do is to remove the words “praedial larceny” from our vocabulary.Theft in the agricultural sector must be treated the same way as theft in any other sector. The response by the police has to be quicker, and fines and other penalties have to be more severe.In a letter to the DAILY NATION in 2008, one farmer referredto a statement attributed to the Prime Minister in an address to the Barbados Agricultural Society noting that farmers needed to come up with strategies that they believed would have the greatest impact.Farmers have come up with strategies like policing their fields, setting up lighting systems, using guards with dogs (some of whom have been shot at), and they have tried everything within the law to stop the problem – but to no avail. Of course all these measures add to the cost of the product, which is then in direct contradiction to the policy of lower food prices.It is ironic too that a rebate is offered to farmers for electronic security equipment, yet I am told that evidence gathered through this process is not admissible in court. This must be rectified.The same farmer suggested in the 1980s that the use of electric fences, fish hooks, and/or traps (like those used in England) should be legalised, with the provision of suitable warning signs and placement within acceptable distances from all roads. He noted that until one or more of these drastic steps was taken to combat praedial larceny, people would continue to be discouraged from farming.     It is doubtful that these drastic strategies would find favour with the powers that be – and so the problem will continue.
 Although the legislation that we have may not be perfect, it would help if the police would aggressively enforce it.
    A certificate of purchase to be issued to buyers by farmers is part of the regulations of the Praedial Larceny Act.    These certificates were printed and “laid to rest” on a shelf somewhere until the Super Centre group decided to resurrect them and use them as part of a new buying system aimed at curbing crop theft.    The system worked well for a few years but came to an end when the certificates ran out, and it appeared impossible to have them replaced.     A similar system must be instituted and monitored at all public markets, supermarkets, hotels and other outlets.We need to have vehicle spot checks similar to those used to check vehicle licences and insurance. At night in particular, vehicle searches, especially of commercial-type vans and trucks, could prove to be effective.There has even been a call for helicopter patrols using night vision equipment. These would obviously have to be in close communication with quick-response ground patrols to be effective.It’s time to stop talking and start acting. We have had enough seminars and meetings; let us do something.
Dr Frances Chandler is an agronomist and Independent Senator

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