Life is about to become tougher for agricultural produce and livestock thieves, who have been running a well-organized ring, according to Chief Agricultural Officer Lennox Chandler.
The agricultural official has confirmed that new legislation – the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livelihood Bill 2017 and the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Regulations 2017 – will be sent to Cabinet shortly for consideration, before they are taken to Parliament for debate and approval.
Chandler said the new legislation would help combat a growing problem of praedial larceny by a sophisticated gang of thieves.
“This is something that is organized. People have vans, people have teams,” he told Barbados TODAY on the fringes of a workshop on praedial larceny hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resources Management in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Secretariat, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, at the Ministry’s Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters.
The new laws will require farmers to register with the ministry and to produce the necessary certificates and identification upon request, all of which will come at a cost to the farmers, Chandler said.
“So you have vendors IDs, farmers IDs, certificates of purchase, all these documents that farmers have to fill and carry with them along with some form of identification. What we want to make clear to the farmers is that these IDs are not free. There are fees associated with the various pieces of identification that they have to have.”
However, the Ministry of Agriculture official suggested that legislation alone would not prevent the theft of produce and livestock, stressing that enforcement of legislation would also be important.
“The ministry is not a police force or police station by any stretch of the imagination. Police may not like to hear this but [they] have to do the job as well. I know they have to run down people with this and that and illegal drugs and so on, but they have to pay some attention to the problem of praedial larceny,” he stressed, adding that the court system also had to be sensitive to the problem.
“I am not saying that you have to be draconian when you are dealing with the matter but some people need to be punished to the full extent of the law so that they recognize that it is a serious matter,” Chandler insisted.
In the most recent high profile case of praedial larceny, a 37-year-old #2 Edey Village, Christ Church man was slapped with a $1,000 fine for stealing 80 pounds of cassava.
Roland Romel Layne, known as Mr Agriculture for his frequent calls to a popular local radio programme discussing agriculture, pleaded guilty to the theft charge and was ordered to pay the fine by November 28 or face a six-month jail term. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault.
Chandler warned Barbadians of the dangers of purchasing agricultural produce and meat from undocumented or uncertified sources.
“It might be stolen and could pose a challenge to your health. Animals are injected with various drugs and produces are sprayed with various pesticides and you don’t know the period before you can consume them. You go and you purchase them from some unscrupulous person, you go home and eat them and while they may not kill you but there is morbidity. Little children might suffer even more and some of the damage might be irreparable.
“Then there is the issue of someone stealing an animal, not knowing if it is sick, killing it and you buy the meat, go home and cook it and eat and then some disease is passed onto you because there are some disease that animals carry that can be passed onto humans,” he said.