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JIS News

Persons caught transporting agricultural produce without receipts for the goods in their possession, could face prosecution under the Agricultural Produce Act.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, said that come November 1, the leniency now enjoyed will end and persons could face fines of $250,000 and/or six months in jail, for transporting goods without a receipt.
“What this means is that the use of the agricultural receipt book will be compulsory and it will be the evidence used by farmers and buyers to prove that the goods were legally obtained,” Senator Grant told JIS News, adding that the JAS was the sole distributor of the receipt books, which would only be sold to farmers.
Under the amended Agricultural Produce Act, persons could face penalties for illegally transporting crops and livestock, including bovines (cows and bulls), goats, sheep, dogs (farm dogs and working dogs), all types of fish and poultry, eggs, honey and honeycombs and peacocks.
Senator Grant noted that the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) is the body, which will be dealing with breaches under the Act and that some 34 ISCF officers have been trained to work specifically in the rural areas.
In June this year, the Ministry of National Security donated $280,000 to the JAS for its sensitization campaign on the receipt book system and the amendments to the Act. The campaign began in August and will culminate in January 2007.
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 and 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.
“The St. Elizabeth police recently captured four praedial thieves, who had stolen cattle, so the receipt system is working,” Senator Grant informed. Meanwhile, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority has registered some 100,000 farmers of which some 70,000 have been confirmed and verified. Receipt books will only be issued to registered farmers.
Additionally, Senator Grant noted that Portland had the highest compliance rate with regard to the use of the receipt book system, while St. Ann and Trelawny were the most non-compliant parishes.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands donated some $5 million to the JAS for printing the receipt books, which provide proof of purchase of agricultural produce to help the police to distinguish the genuine farmers and buyers from agricultural thieves. Senator Grant is therefore encouraging all farmers to purchase receipt books as the system will be beneficial to them.
Statistics from the Ministry show that praedial larceny is costing the sector losses of some $4 billion annually, which represents 25 per cent of the total production for the agricultural sector.