EDITORIAL: Fresh bed to curb crop theft long overdue
THE UGLY ISSUE of crop theft has risen once again. While not a new problem by any measure, it is certainly a nagging one for farmers who invest thousands of dollars into crops which are lost at the hands of thieves.
The spotlight was on praedial larceny this week when crooks made off with $600 worth of cassava from Lears Plantation in St Michael, which is owned by C.O. Williams Farms. Manager of the plantation Elvis Gittens reported that thieves also made off with potatoes three weeks ago worth $1 500.
For years, praedial larceny has been an issue which food crop farmers in particular have had to grapple with, albeit unsuccessfully. Some have beefed up security in the fields to try to weed out the thieves, while others simply sit and pray that their crops will be safe. There have also been those who have since given up farming as a way of life and an honest living.
Officials too have had headaches trying to come up with measures that would protect the crops. One suggestion was to license food crops, which would help to identify items that were stolen vis-à-vis those that were legitimate. Placing security officers in the fields to watch over crops was also mooted.
The concern here is that these watchmen can be placing themselves in harm’s way since the thieves themselves may also be armed and dangerous.
There needs to be renewed efforts from the Ministry of Agriculture to stamp out this crime that is crippling farmers. In this vein, we welcome the promise from the Minister Dr David Estwick, who said tough praedial larceny laws requiring wholesalers to prove how they got their produce were just months away from becoming a reality.
The old Praedial Larceny Act, he said, did not provide for effective traceability of produce movement, produce monitoring in and outside of markets, and enforcement. With this new measure, market inspectors will police areas of vending of agricultural produce to ensure certification and traceability. This includes wholesalers, supermarkets and vendors of agricultural produce in markets and on the streets.
This new legislation, the Agriculture Protection and Development Act, which has already been approved by Cabinet, is long overdue and hopefully should go a long way in stamping out this crime.
Thousands of dollars worth of produce have been lost to thieves and some farmers who toil long and hard in the field, have been left penniless with nothing to show for their efforts. Steps should have been taken years ago to put this plan into action and protect the pockets of farmers.
Still, we are happy that it is soon to be become reality so farmers will be able to see and enjoy the fruits of their labour.