No relief for the farmers
PREDIAL?LARCENY continues to relentlessly plague farmers in Barbados, with seemingly little notice or interest being taken by the authorities.
I doubt whether it would even make the agenda on any political platform during the upcoming election and I understand that the police say it is not a priority for them.
The farmers are trying some of their own security methods, but at much expense, which, apparently, they are expected to absorb and not pass on to the consumer.
In addition to facing this scourge, farmers are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in VAT refunds as well as promised price support for sugar, which has not materialized.
They are also faced with a lack of decisions on the part of the powers that be regarding the future direction of the sugar(cane) industry. How can the players in that industry have any confidence to make their own decisions for their farms when the direction of the industry as a whole remains unknown?
A similar situation exists with the dairy industry, both cow and goat. Cow farmers, after being told to increase their milk supply, bought additional animals, and before these could come into production, they are told to reduce their milk supply. It should be clear that farmers cannot turn on and off their cows to suit the wishes of the dairy.
The interesting thing is that while it is claimed that the demand for milk has reduced, we are still importing milk from Trinidad and the United States.
The goat industry will never develop further if it continues to suffer unfair competition from the Government agricultural station, which is selling milk below cost. This station, as far as I am aware, was supposed to be conducting research to extend the milk production season, but in spite of all the taxes spent on the research, no results are evident, and the peak production still coincides with that of farmers.
Interestingly, a few days ago I was pulled over by two members of the Task Force of the police department and asked to produce my vehicle licence and insurance documents. I produced them but I told the officers that I was disappointed that they had not stopped me to search my vehicle to see if I was carrying any yams, potatoes or other food crops and to ask me for proof of how I had acquired them.
Whenever the agricultural sector asks why vehicle searches are not done to detect predial larceny, we are told that there is not enough manpower to do this, yet members of the Task Force can be deployed (in twos) to carry out the rather mundane task of checking vehicle and drivers’ licences, a task that could easily be carried out by licensing officers, accompanied by constables from the Traffic Division.
The distributive sector has attempted to help curb the predial larceny problem by monitoring the source of the produce it buys, and has had some success, but the effort has seen no support from the powers that be.
It almost seems as if the stealing is condoned – just as it seems that squatting is now condoned as well as the illegal tapping of the water supply of a Government corporation. There is even an “official” key-keeper in charge of organising the water supply whose photograph proudly displaying the keys can appear in the newspaper with, it would seem, no consequences to him.
Furthermore, it appears now that farmers have to compete for land, not only with developers, but with squatters who are residing quite comfortably without permission on agricultural land in the Zone 1 Water Protection Area where no building is allowed.
Zone 1 is closest to the production wells or areas earmarked for such and has the most stringent restrictions on development activities. Again this blatant flouting of the law does not seem to concern the authorities since it has been going on for over three decades with little or nothing done. One wonders what methods of sewage treatment these squatters are using to avoid pollution of our potable water supply.
The farmer is treated very differently, since the Pesticide Control Board restricts or bans agricultural inputs that are likely to have a deleterious effect on the environment, particularly with respect to the contamination of the potable water supply;
In addition to all these man-made stumbling blocks, the farmer must contend with the vagaries of the weather and other factors of nature not under man’s control. How much more are the farmers expected to bear?
• The Agrodoc has over 40 years’ experience in agriculture in Barbados, operating at different levels of the sector. Send any questions or comments to: The Agrodoc, C/o Nation Publishing Co. Ltd., Fontabelle, St Michael.