Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says employment of traceability and identification mechanisms for produce, is essential in tackling praedial larceny.
He noted that one such method involved utilising receipt books, once the produce has entered the food chain.
“It is now more vital than ever, that farmers and vendors issue to purchasers a receipt for produce bought. The receipt must become a part of the farmers’ and vendors’ daily operation,” the Minister urged.
He was speaking at a one-day praedial larceny sensitisation seminar on Tuesday (January 24), for recently graduated Police Constables, at the Jamaica Police Academy, Twickenham Park, St. Catherine.
Mr. Clarke noted that agricultural receipt books will be available at Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) offices, island-wide.
“We are also imploring produce dealers to get licensed. The fact is that many of them are engaged in buying and selling or buying and exporting of agricultural goods, without the requisite licence. The Ministry’s Plant Quarantine Division, the agency which issues these licences, stands ready and willing to assist those people to become licensed,” he said.
Mr. Clarke lamented the lack of enforcement of praedial larceny legislation, by both the police and the judiciary. He said it was a factor impeding the effectiveness of systems that have been put in place by successive Governments to curtail the problem.
“The reality is that praedial larceny is, unfortunately, treated with very scant regard and, as a result, there is limited enforcement,” he stated.
He noted, however, that the country could not continue losing some $5 billion each year in agricultural production to praedial larceny, which poses “a serious threat to the livelihoods of farmers and serves as a disincentive for investment in agricultural activities”.
He told the Constables, the Government is depending on them to assist in enforcing the praedial larceny legislations, by ensuring that farmers and vendors comply with the law.
Mr. Clarke noted that the one-day workshop was timely and came at a crucial time, when “we must all collectively say enough is enough.”
“We must send a strong signal to persons who reap what they do not sow: The time has come to crush this menace. Too often we see… the anguish and pain of our farmers, who have suffered from the hands of thieves.” he said.
He pointed out that the seminar also served to sensitise Constables to the fact that persons should not be “let off” for stealing a banana, but that a clear message must be sent that if they steal agricultural produce, they will be dealt with.
“You have to nip it in the bud,” the Minister stressed. “I charge you, graduates of the constabulary, to be the trail blazers of this programme by enforcing breaches of the Agricultural Produce Act, and other Acts related to the theft of agricultural produce. Yours is a daunting task, (and) it requires will and commitment,” Mr. Clarke advised.
“We believe that increased enforcement and stiffer penalties by the judiciary will signal a new dawn for our farmers, and the country at large,” he said.
The 141 recently Constables will be deployed in St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Manchester, parishes with strong farming communities.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter