A new praedial larceny Bill is due to go before Parliament by year end as Government seeks to crackdown on worrying crop theft.
However, addressing stakeholders during an agriculture accountability seminar hosted by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) here on Tuesday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Fisheries & Water Resources Management Ellsworth Reid warned that legislation alone would not solve the problem, as he called on farmers, whose livelihoods are directly threatened, to also play their part in combating the agriculture “menace”.
“Farmers need to join forces with Government to fight against the menace of praedial larceny and not expect to sit back and wait for Government to solve this problem,” Reid said.
His comments came against the backdrop of recent criminal charges brought against at least three people on account of praedial larceny.
Back in April, Grantley DaCosta McDonald Thorpe, 52, of Valley Land, St George was charged with stealing 105 pounds of sweet potatoes from Chapel Plantation and ten bags of onions from Valley Plantation, St George.
His arrest followed that of Ian Emmerson Bennett, 41, of Cliff, St John, and Seymour DaCosta Inniss, 52, also of Cliff, St John who also faced the court charged with stealing sweet potatoes between April and last December.
In addition to stepped up police patrols, some local farmers have also been forced to take matters into their own hands by employing private security to patrol their farms, particularly at night when crop thieves have been known to strike.
Among those affected has been Richard Armstrong, general manager of the St Philip-based Armag Farms, who reported back in April that Armag was losing around $100,000 annually because of crop theft.
Armstrong had also suggested that police needed to go undercover to public markets where he alleged stolen produce was being openly sold every week.
However, without making mention of any such operation or going into detail on what the new legislation will seek to do, Reid said, “All Government can do in this matter is to put in place the relevant body of strong legislation which should be on the statute books by year end.”
The official also pointed out that the average age of the Barbados farmer was 60+, while thanking the IICA for partnering with Government to ensure more young people got involved in agriculture.