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Both sides failed

“This praedial larceny thing is a joke.”

That was the response this morning from a “frustrated” President of the Food Crop Farmers Association of Barbados, Debra Gill, to the manifesto proposals of the Barbados Labour Party to address agricultural development and food security, with focus on praedial larceny, if returned to Government at next Thursday’s general election.

In the manifesto launched at a mass meeting in Eagle Hall, St. Michael last night, the BLP said it was committing itself to food security, stating that “all evidence shows that the single greatest threat to a successful agricultural sector, is praedial larceny”.

“We will update our legislation on praedial larceny, to ensure that it satisfies the requirements of our agricultural sector, including providing for stiffer penalties,” the BLP document said.

But Gill told Barbados TODAY, while she had not gone through the document as yet, “nothing” had been done by successive governments to bring real relief to struggling farmers who “are between a rock and a hard place”.

“I can tell you that I have a case in court right now, which has been going on for three years and every time I go to court, the case is being adjourned, adjourned, adjourned. Now they give another adjournment date for next month,” lamented the farmer who owns and operates a poultry farm and processing plant and grows food crops.

She recalled catching a man “red handed” on camera stealing her chickens, but expressed disgust that the video could not be used as evidence in a court.

“What’s the use of having closed circuit television cameras and you can’t use it in court. Why is it that Government got all of these CCTVs all over the place then. It’s a waste of time,” the farmers’ spokesperson suggested.

“Farmers are sick and tired of this situation which has been going on for years. You work so hard to plant your crops and grow your chickens for somebody else to come and take them away from you … and nothing is being done.”

The food crop entrepreneur said the only redeeming aspect of this state of affairs was that farmers were still sticking to this business simply because they loved agriculture.

“If I had a bookstore I would close it down, but I love farming,” asserted Gill, whose roots in agriculture dated back to age 13 when she started gardening.

She was of the view that farmers in Barbados were “at the bottom of the barrel” in relation to the attention which governments paid to other areas of the economy.

“We produce food,” reasoned the food crop farmers association president.

Gill revealed that an application to the Town and Country Planning department requesting its approval to divide her land so she could improve her agricultural enterprise, had been rejected on the basis that the integrity of the agricultural sector would be compromised.†However, a new BLP Administration is pledging assured access to land as a key component of an agricultural resuscitation policy.

“The Physical Development Plan,” the 84-page manifesto went on, “will continue to be the guide for the use of agricultural land and the private sector will be expected to assist Government in making sure that such land is not alienated from agriculture.” (EJ)

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