The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has re-launched the Agricultural Produce Receipt Book Programme in an effort to curb the nagging problem of praedial larceny.
Under the initiative, all registered farmers and vendors are required to issue a receipt, identifiable by a unique number, to anyone who purchases agricultural produce, as proof of payment.
Speaking at the re-launch held at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in St. Andrew on February 28, portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, said praedial larceny has ballooned to become one of the greatest deterrents to agricultural production in Jamaica, with losses of up to $5 billion per annum.
He noted that farm theft continues to threaten the true potential of Jamaica’s agricultural industry, which suffocates the expansion of the sector and discourages new entrants.
He said the government is committed to “nipping the problem in the bud,” and the receipt book system will help to establish greater levels of traceability of produce and mitigate the scourge.
“This Ministry will never be satisfied until we can guarantee our farmers a better environment in which to produce and excel and to inspire our young people to invest in agriculture,” Mr. Clarke stated.
Praedial Larceny Prevention Coordinator, Reginald Grant, said the receipt book system is part of the Praedial Larceny Prevention Programme’s four-tiered plan to address the longstanding problem of farm theft.
The other components are: the employment of a praedial larceny prevention coordinator; strengthening collaboration among farmers, police, parish councils, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and communities; and publicity of the programmes.
The Ministry has collaborated with various agencies and organisations in the public and private sectors, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), farmers’ groups and communities to effectively implement the project. Mr. Grant noted that the success or failure of the receipt book programme is dependent, not only on the farmers and vendors, but on all consumers.
In his remarks, Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, assured that the police will do all it can to support the anti-praedial larceny programme.
“It is important that law enforcement partners with the agricultural sector in dealing decisively with praedial larceny and in restoring the commercial viability of farming and getting more and more of our citizens involved in this very lucrative area of economic activity,” he stated.
He informed that the police force developed a Praedial Larceny Prevention Plan, in collaboration with the Agricultural Ministry and “every divisional commander now has that plan reflected in their divisional policing programme and already, we are seeing successes in terms of how some divisions have embraced it"
He noted that the St. Thomas Division in particular, has made numerous arrests, which have led to the prosecution of several persons.
He further called on the judiciary to ensure that they issue the effective punishment to deter offenders.
“The Receipt to be issued to purchaser” is a provision of the amended Agricultural Produce Act 2004.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter