Amended Agricultural Produce Act Impacting Positively


The amended Agricultural Produce Act is impacting the agricultural sector in several positive ways.
This legislation, which was amended in November of 2005, now includes new provisions, such as a compulsory receipt book system to be used by farmers in conducting their transactions. The definition of agricultural produce has also been extended to include fish, livestock and other items that were not included in the original Act. In addition, the fines for breaches under the Act have been increased.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant tells JIS News that the amended legislation law will help to push the agricultural sector forward and protect the farmers from praedial thieves. He points out that the sector has suffered significantly at the hands of praedial thieves over the last 15 to 20 years. “Praedial thieves have cost the sector in the region of $4 billion each year in recent times, which represents about 25 per cent of the total production that takes place in the agricultural sector,” he informs.
“Praedial larceny is like a cancer that dampens the enthusiasm of our farmers and undermines our food security plan and affects advancement of the sector.
We want to ensure that those who continue to reap where they have not sown will get a clear message that as a society and as a people, we will not give them a free ride, and if they continue to steal from farmers they must know that the full length of the law will be thrown at them,” he says.
Citing some of the benefits of the amended Agricultural Produce Act, Senator Grant says that because the law now includes a wider range of crops and livestock, more praedial thieves can be prosecuted.
“In the original Act, only certain root crops were categorized as agricultural produce. The new Act therefore includes things like fish and livestock. Livestock was not originally defined as an agricultural produce. In principle, nothing that we now produce is excluded, so a person cannot steal anything that is either grown or reared and go to the courts and claim that it is not defined as agricultural,” he points out.
Also included in the amended Act as produce are: honey and honeycombs, eggs, cows, bulls, goats, sheep, dogs, peacocks, ducks, cattle, pigs, goats, rabbits, dogs, donkeys, mules, horses, buffaloes, geese, fish and all other marine and aqua-cultural products.
Senator Grant informs that under the amended legislation, persons can face a fine of $250,000 and/or six months in jail for transporting goods without a receipt, whereas in the past, the fee for a breach of the law was $1,000.
“The Act therefore makes the use of the receipt book compulsory. If you are selling agricultural produce, the Act mandates that the seller of the produce must provide the buyer with a receipt, once an agreement is arrived at for the exchange of that good, whether it is for cash or for credit,” Senator Grant notes.
“Another provision covered under the Act, is that it allows the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to issue a registration number to each farmer. That registration number would be affixed on the receipt book when it is sold to the farmer,” he adds.
The President says that the Act further designates the JAS as the exclusive agent for the distribution of the receipt books to the farmers. In addition, the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) is the body that is authorized to deal with breaches under the Act.
“Under the legislation, the police have been given the authority to stop and question carriers of produce if they are suspected of being in possession of stolen agricultural crops or livestock. If the carriers cannot produce a receipt for the goods, then the police will not only take the suspect into custody, but also seize the goods in question. The burden of proof and all costs incurred will be the sole responsibility of the carrier,” he stresses.
In addition, some 150 ISCF members have been trained and 50 motorbikes have been acquired to help in the fight, he adds.
Meanwhile, Senator Grant tells JIS News that some farmers are still apprehensive about the receipt book system, pointing out that the JAS intends to continue its massive islandwide education campaign to sensitize farmers about the agricultural receipt book.
“We want our farmers to know that this receipt book system is not in any way an attempt to impede or to make trading of agricultural produce difficult. It is a mechanism designed to provide a framework that protects the genuine farmers, and to ensure that those who continue to reap what they did not sow, that there is an avenue where the police will have the latitude to take them to court and to provide the necessary evidence to bring them to justice,” he says.
As part of the effort to sensitise farmers, the JAS is having a series of road shows across the island, which are targeted at farmers and purchasers of agricultural produce. In addition to informing farmers about how they can benefit from the use of the receipt books, the road shows are also intended to increase the registration of farmers and the distribution of receipt books.
“Road shows have gotten underway in Manchester, St. Thomas, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth. The next praedial larceny road show will take place in the parish of Portland. The shows will be staged for three months until March 31 next year. The ISCF and RADA are partners in the process,” he notes.
Despite some apprehension by the farmers, the President tells JIS News that there have been positive results from the amended Act, such as an increase in the number of praedial thieves caught by the police. “In St. Mary for instance, we had a major catch, where half a million dollars worth of cattle was stolen. These persons have been brought before the courts. In St. Catherine in the month of February, some 10 cases were brought before the Resident Magistrate’s Court. Seven have been concluded and it has been established that those people were actually carrying out the act of praedial larceny. so there have been levels of success,” he notes. “We are not expecting to reap tremendous success overnight. We are on a marathon, not in a sprint and we are engaging this process over the next 10 years, so by that time, we should see a progressive decrease in the incidence of praedial larceny,” Senator Grant tells JIS News.

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