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Crop watch

Antoinette Connell

Crop watch

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Government has come up with two solutions to catch you and punish you severely.
They are proposing to establish a tracing system that will force vendors to account for the crops they sell, and a special policing squad to deal with these matters.
This was revealed yesterday by Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick during debate on the Agricultural head under the 2011-2012 Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure. The House of Assembly last night passed the Estimates after five days of debate.
Estwick said new legislation had been drafted to combat this menacing and increasing problem of large scale theft of crops as the old laws did not have the type of punitive measures to act as a deterrent for crooks. The draft legislation had been reviewed by farmers and other stakeholders and was heading to Cabinet, Estwick stated.
But the minister complained that it was not only those who were not farmers who were stealing. He charged that there were certain groups of farmers involved in praedial larceny and there was organised theft of crops.
“But I want to sound a warning about when we introduce the traceability system,” he said.
Farmers who grew particular crops but were found with or selling others had better be able to produce the proof that the crops were theirs, Estwick said.
He explained that with the tracing system the produce would contain a number which would be transferred to the wholesaler and to the retailer and the police would be able to request the documents for the produce.
“Praedial larceny undermines an undeveloped agriculture sector. It is like a virus and it has become chronic. It saddens me,” he said.
Another missing feature of the old legislation, he said, was a special squad  operating under the ministry and the police to deal with the harvest theft. But that was also expected to be dealt with in the new legislation.
Estwick advised customers to buy only from those farmers registered with the Ministry of Agriculture.
He warned that there was also a health element associated with praedial larceny as many thieves and their accomplices did not know what pesticides had been used on the crops. (AC)