Protect the farmers’ produce
An impassioned Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn today admitted once helping put “some warm lashes” on an egg thief as he appealed for new laws against praedial larceny to be introduced.
The acting leader of the Upper House, who led off debate on the new Precious Metals and Second Hand Metal Act, said the crops grown by farmers were also precious and they needed help securing what they produced from criminals.
Benn, the current administration’s first Minister of Agriculture, and the head of the Barbados Agricultural Society for a 22 year period ending in 1997, said it was important to have the updated legislation to prevent farmers from taking matters into their own hands, as had happened in the past in a case in which he was personally involved.
“A farmer was losing his eggs everyday and one morning at 10 o’clock we got a call that the fellow (suspected thief) had moved into the pen because we had people watching, and 10 o’clock we turned up and the guy was in there collecting eggs, picked up the phone and called and up to five o’clock the police had not come yet so what we did we put some warm lashes on the fellow and let him go,” he recounted.
“He left without the eggs, the heat that was coming out of his body could have made omelette with the eggs. We put some warm lashes on him [but] we don’t want that kind of situation to happen, we want to see some attention paid.
“In as much as we are paying attention to the special case with the precious metals and second hand metals I want some attention as well paid (to praedial larceny),” the minister urged.
Benn said while they were not cooper nor gold, the vegetables and other items produced by farmers were their livelihood and said he had “known of too many instances where farmers have had to suffer losses without any compensation”.
“I have known a farmer already who saw an early morning a crop thief moving out with his cabbages in bags and he let go a shot … at the crop thief. The crop thief returned fire, the farmer in turn shot again hitting the crop thief in the ankle and the farmer ended up before the court for committing grievous bodily harm. Can you imagine that?” he asked.
His hope was that “as much as we have come to these chambers with some measures to seek to combat and to add teeth to this activity and to increase substantially the fines, … I want everybody to spare a thought for the a agricultural sector as well”. (SC)