EDITORIAL: Welcome news for farmers
Farmers across Barbados must have welcomed reports earlier this week that the police will step up their efforts to deal with the scourge that has been wreaking havoc on agriculture.
We focus once again on predial larceny, undoubtedly the issue that can turn some farmers away from the agricultural industry and at the same time impact our efforts to become self-sufficient in food production, provide jobs and even earn foreign exchange.
This problem of theft or even vandalizing of food crops and livestock cannot command too much attention until it is rooted out.
Many farmers have been unable to protect their crops and, by extension, their livelihood because of the actions of a few criminals. There have been instances where farmers and their families have also been threatened.
And the danger also extends to public health, when stolen crops, which may have been sprayed with harmful chemicals during cultivation, or tainted meat – both likely to cause illness – are offered for sale.
This initiative by the police to deal with a long-standing problem comes at a perfect time, when national focus will fall on agriculture via the annual Agrofest event, which not only showcases what is being done in the industry, but can be an opportunity to encourage new entrants, especially youth and the unemployed.
We understand why predial larceny has been unfortunately treated with very scant regard over the years.
This type of criminal activity has evolved from “petty theft”, concerning which we often looked the other way if someone took a few pieces of cane or some food crops, or even picked a few fruits.
Our attitude was that “a poor fellow” was merely helping himself to a small meal. But we can no longer see it this way.
While there is legislation already in place to deal with crop and livestock theft, there is a need for enforcement. There must also be empathy for the farmer, large or small, who cannot be encouraged to take the law into his own hands to defend his interest.
Understandably, manpower is a challenge within the Royal Barbados Police Force, but any stepped-up police presence across the island, especially accompanied by consultations with the farmers’ association, should make a telling difference.
In much the same way we have joint police/Barbados Defence Force patrols to ensure the vital interests of the tourism sector are protected, a similar scheme, mainly at night, should be considered to help our farmers.
The law courts will have the final say by way of punishment, but until that happens we must rely primarily on the police to help stamp out predial larceny.
We must all give the planned Anonymous Watch programme our full support.