The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be intensifying its farmer registration programme this year, as it moves to arrest the scourge of farm theft.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, in his recent budget presentation, informed that some $6 million will be used under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) to employ some 100 people to undertake farmer registration and re-verification during the summer.
The registration programme is a critical element in the Ministry's anti-praedial larceny initiative, which was re-launched this year. Farmers, who register with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), are provided with a receipt book, which comes with a discreet number, and they are required to issue the receipts to buyers of produce or livestock, along with their telephone number.
This process facilitates verification of the origin of the goods in a person’s possession.
Already, 3,355 farmers have signed on since the start of the year to bring the total number of registered farmers to 153,652, but the Ministry is looking to significantly increase the numbers.
Minister Clarke said that having been registered, it is imperative that farmers use the receipt books, “as a critical element in our traceability efforts."
He informed that a new praedial larceny coordinator has been engaged, whose mandate is to collaborate with the various stakeholders, including farmer organisations, the police, and the judiciary, in combating the scourge.
In addition, the Ministry has been sensitising the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the judiciary in relation to the provisions of the law relating to praedial larceny prevention, which the Minister said, is being incorporated into the training curriculum of the police force.
These efforts are already paying dividends, he said, with 39 prosecutions by the
St. Thomas police since the start of the year for breaches of the Praedial Larceny Prevention Act, while the St. Elizabeth Police has turned the focus on end-users and middle-men, prosecuting eight persons.
Turing to other measures, Mr. Clarke informed that the Ministry is working with Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) to put in place the requisite system to allow for the issuing of travellers licenses to persons, who engage in the agricultural trade.
This provision, along with a requirement for dealers to be registered, is made in the Agricultural Produce Act, but they have never been activated.
“Once this is in place, we are going to insist that all dealers and transporters of agricultural produce be appropriately licensed as is required by law. This will now enable the police to legally intercept these dealers at any time to ascertain whether the goods they are transporting are illegally obtained,” the Minister stated.
By Tracey Thompson