Farmers say more than legislation needed to fight crop theft
The Freundel Stuart administration is being told that legislation alone will not make a dent in the high number of incidents of theft of agricultural produce.
Chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul told Barbados TODAY that Government would also need to ensure that an effective policing structure is in place or the situation would continue.
A week ago, at a St James South branch meeting of the Democratic Labour Party, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick announced that a new bill would soon go before the House of Assembly to replace the Praedial Larceny Act.
He said the legislation would address issues relating to traceability, certification and penalties, among other issues.
Paul welcomed the announcement, stating that this could provide farmers with the assurance and confidence that their investments would be protected.
However, he said, more assistance would be required.
“No matter the legislation that we put into place, if we don’t have people who are prepared to monitor that legislation and ensure that it works . . . it [will be] an issue for us in this country,” he said.
“As a matter of course, I think we should have people going into those farmers’ markets inspecting the produce and ensuring that the people who are selling the produce are legitimate.”
Meantime, at least one farmer is adopting a wait and see attitude about the pending changes.
Andrew Walcott, who has been farming for the past 25 years and has fallen victim to praedial larceny several times, said he was still waiting for authorities to “get it right”.
He told Barbados TODAY that while he welcomed any legislation that would deal with crop theft he would not get his hopes up.
“To be honest with you, I have been in the field for quite a while and I don’t mean to downplay anything that anyone has said or attempts to do, but I have been at several seminars and meetings that these issues have been raised and I am now in my 40s and I have not seen any real serious matters addressed as it relates to [praedial larceny],” Walcott said.
“So if the legislation [does] come, I do welcome it, but all now you can go into a supermarket and steal something and I can guarantee you that person can get three to six months or even a year for stealing the smallest item. Someone steals from your farm and you have to provide evidence . . . Even when the person is brought before the courts you find that you get this kind of mentality that ‘well, it is farming, the persons probably stole to feed themselves’.
“It is not always like that but several times I have had praedial larceny on my farm and nothing really came out of it. I would welcome the legislation if it works but over the years I am yet to see it come to fruition,” he added.
Meanwhile another farmer, Stephen Williams, said that “anything in the lines of helping to put a stop” to praedial larceny would be “wonderful”.