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Thieves hit cassava farmers

Just when agriculture officials thought they had overcome the problem of crop theft, the thieves have struck again.

Earlier this year several people were arrested and charged with stealing sweet potatoes, prompting the Ministry of Agriculture to announce plans to introduce a new praedial larceny Bill by year end.

However, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul announced this week that thieves were back, but this time they were targeting cassava farmers in St George, St Michael and St Thomas.

Paul said this had come as a blow to the sector, especially as agriculture officials had embarked on a programme to increase cassava production. According to him, of the ten farmers who signed up for the programme, eight had been affected.

“Under the programme that is being done . . . what we did is that we identified farmers and gave them some inputs in terms of the plantlets and after you have done that you really wanted to see what the results of those tests were and it is unfortunate really that we have thieves coming in and literally stealing those crops.

“Here it is that we have been able to get Barbadian farmers to actually plant crops but they are not able to see the results of it.  It seems to me a sense of lawlessness that seems to be pervading this community and we need to do something about it.  We just cannot have people going about the place and engaging in those lawless acts,” Paul said.

He welcomed the Ministry of Agriculture’s reintroduction of the purchasing certificate, and called on the public to inquire of vendors the origin of their produce.

“Because the quantities of agriculture produce that are stolen are significant enough to make one want to inquire when a person comes to you to sell produce as a retailer, you’ll want to find out where did they get their produce.

“I know that we are trying to encourage people to get into business, but it cannot be at the expense of encouraging people to go and steal the produce. I know there are some very good vendors and  . . .  they are extremely cooperative in terms of trying to work with the police to ensure that the produce that are on the market are genuine produce,” Paul stated.

He charged that it was unfair to farmers to have to wait up to five months to reap their crops, “and at the end of it some culprit, some scavenger comes along and carries away that produce”. 

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