Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, says discussions are being held with two private investors to establish agro-conomic zones in Annotto Bay in St. Mary, and in Hanover.
The zones are to provide farmers with a reliable market for their produce, and contribute to the reduction of praedial larceny.
Addressing the launch of the Grierfield and surrounding communities Anti-Praedial Larceny Initiative on June 22, Mr. Hutchinson explained that the investors will purchase produce from interested farmers across the country under a contract.
“They will set a price. Sometimes there is a glut and prices go down, and when there is a scarcity, prices go up. The prices in the zone will be steady,” he explained, at the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral in Moneague, St. Ann.
Last year, Mr. Hutchinson announced that the Government would establish, through public-private partnership, the first agro-economic zone in Spring Plains Clarendon.
The property, which has a large warehouse, has been leased by an investor, and once operational, farmers will have a market for their crops.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hutchinson said agricultural aides, who will be between the ages of 18 and 24, are to be trained and given HEART Trust/NTA certification.
They are to be in place by the end of next month and will be deployed to certain districts across the island to help in the fight against praedial larceny.
“Whenever you lose anything, it is sometimes hard to get to the police. You are to know the agricultural aide, who will liaise with the police and be able to get the problem straightened out,” he said.
The aides will also work closely with Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension officers to closely monitor agricultural developments in these districts as well as register farmers.
The aides, who will also receive a stipend, will be responsible for examining crop damage and the loss of livestock, and record those affected.
In an interview with JIS News, President of the Grierfield Farmers’ Group, Clement Daniels, said praedial larceny in his community and in other parts of the country has to be eliminated.
He informed that while it has not affected Grierfield as badly as other places, farmers have lost cows, goats, chickens, cassava and bananas to the crime.
It is as a result of this that the community has banded together to launch an Anti-Praedial Larceny Initiative.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in charge of the island’s Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit (PLPU) in the Ministry, Kevin Francis, said St. Ann is of concern to the police “as persons continue to reap what they did not grow”.
He noted that the unit has put strategies in place to reduce praedial larceny, such as community-based policing and sessions within communities.
Mr. Francis is urging members of the public to report to the police when slaughtering animals, which is required by the Livestock Control Order of 1976.
“By doing so, the police will be able to do checks and balances as it relates to various animals being slaughtered and will be able to enforce the Public Health Butchers Regulation,” he said.