Crop stealing in Barbados is big business, and equally big persons in our society are either doing it or encouraging others to illegally take what farmers sowed.
That’s the conclusion of veteran farmer and agro-processor David Armstrong, who thinks that the size of crops being repeatedly stolen in Barbados with no one being caught or prosecuted means the theft is well organised.
Armstrong made known his view in the final of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society’s lecture series on the island’s food production titled Big-Grain Rice And Beyond. This took the form of a panel discussion under the heading Not another Cane Blade, moderated by David Ellis, with other panellists being Geneticist and current director of the UWI Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship, Professor Leonard O’Garro; agriculturalist and former Barbados Agricultural Society president Keith Laurie; and Member of Parliament and BAS president James Paul.
“I made a list of the things that make it most difficult for me as a grower of food in Barbados to produce food. Number one on the list is predial larceny,” Armstrong said last night at the Steel Shed, Queens Park.
“Without any doubt it is the thing that some mornings when I wake up – and I love agriculture – makes me feel like staying in bed,” he said, adding: “There is nothing else that comes closer to it. It’s getting worse, and less is being done about it . . . and it doesn’t only mean that we are losing sweet potatoes, we’re losing tons of sugar cane, we lose carrots, we lose everything”.
He said: “It has got to the stage where it is no longer someone coming and stealing a couple pounds of carrots to carry home and feed their family, it is now a big business. It is an organised business.”
Armstrong, who grows a variety of crops and is now pioneering in production of potato chip fries in commercial quantities, gave an example of recent losses to cane thieves, explaining that while half of the land yielded 30 tons per acre, he couldn’t get as much as ten tons per acre from the remainder because almost all the cane on that plot was stolen.
“That’s not people sucking cane on the side of the street. That is big business, and we have to get people that can do something about to do something about it.”
He charged that well-to-do persons were involved in the theft.
“I am sure there are people high up in our society who are now involved. It is the only way I feel that it can continue to be the threat it is without something being done about it.
“There is no way that we are going to encourage more people in this island to grow food if they don’t get some return from it,” he said.