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EDITORIAL: Keep up fight against crop theft

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Keep up fight against crop theft

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WE WELCOME AND APPLAUD the efforts of our law enforcement officials who appear to be finally getting serious about praedial larceny. Some would say it has been a long time in coming.

Farmers have been hit hard by crop theft over the years and have been rendered out of pocket, watching thousands of dollars go into the ground. They have been especially vocal in their calls for the heavy hand of the law to extend to thieves who have been getting off scot-free.

This week alone, for three consecutive days, crop thieves have been hauled before the law courts on charges of praedial larceny. In the first instance, two men were accusedof stealing almost $10 000 worth of sweet potatoes. On that same day,a woman was also charged with not having a certificate of purchase for 178 kilogrammes of sweet potatoes found in her possession. The next day, police arrested and charged another man who was allegedly seen by plantation workers in a field of sweet potatoes. Then yesterday, another man was jailed for two years for stealing 50 rods of sweet potatoes.

Crop theft is no less an offence than any other and it is necessarythat those who are guilty are brought to justice. Farmers toil in their fields,from sun up to sun down, and it is unfair and unjust that thieves feel it is okay to reap the sweets of another person’s labour. Those who believe they can walk on to a farmer’s ground and steal his crops and sometimes livestock, as has been reported at times, need to answer for their crimes.

In the past, police seemed to have been lagging when dealing withthis issue in spite of the complaints and loud cries of farmers. Many of them no doubt have felt powerless as it seemed over the years that their cries have fallen on deaf ears.

It is equally important to not only charge those who are stealing, but to also deal with those who do not have the proper documentation to show that they are not selling “hot items”. A certificate of purchase is therefore necessary for food crop sales. Going forward, officials must make sure the showing of the certificate is standard operating procedure when transactions are taking place.

We empathise with farmers, who continue to suffer big loses. President of the Sugar Industries & Supervisors Association Edwin O’Neal tallied recent losses to be in the vicinity of more than $50 000 in one month alone. This week’s charges should send a strong message to would-be crop thieves as well as those caught red-handed with stolen goods. These efforts by police officers must continue if we are to stem incidents of praedial larceny which can cripple our agricultural sector.