Sugar cane vendors along the island’s roadways are coming under suspicion as concerns are being raised about the apparent lack of enforcement of legislation enacted five months ago to combat praedial larceny.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Andrew Gittens today suggested that a number of people selling sugar cane and other products along the roadways did not legally obtain those products but were not being prosecuted because the Protection of Agriculture Products and Livestock Act was not being enforced.
“Only this weekend I was passing down [a section of] the highway and I [saw] a couple fellows with sugar cane. While I can’t say that they didn’t plant the cane it is highly unlikely these fellows are cane producers,” Gittens told the final stakeholder consultation the Savannah Beach Hotel in Hastings, Christ Church, to assess the skills needs of the agriculture and fisheries divisions.
The laws, which was passed in Parliament at the end of November last year, makes it mandatory for anyone selling or “disposing of” agricultural produce or livestock to obtain certificates of purchase.
The legislation, designed mainly to tackle preadial larceny, also requires the same certificate to be produced by the purchaser or any person possessing the items, when requested by a warden.
Those who fail to comply face fines of up to $5,000, up to three years in prison, or both.
Gittens, who spoke today on behalf of Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, said the legislation was meant “to ensure that farmers can reap what they plant and who don’t plant can’t reap what they didn’t plant. I think what we need now is some enforcement though”.
Similar sentiments were shared by Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, who said with the legislation now in place the sale of agriculture produce along sections of the roadways should be better monitored.
“As I align myself with those concern, this is a good opportunity to remind us too that we now have the praedial larceny legislation in place, and that should allow us to put structures in place that we can manage and control better, those things that we see happening at the side of the street,’ Byer-Suckoo said.
During the one-day event – the final in a series of meetings involving industry officials – the participants sought to identify current gaps between training and the needs of the sector, and to identify emerging occupation and skills requirements.
Gittens said the assessment, which started last October and is being funded by the European Union, formed part of the ministry’s ongoing strategic thrust to reposition the sector.
“The intention is to ensure that we not only have a well-trained cadre of staff, but that we also have a clear picture of what is required for the sector, both in terms of skills and the supported level of training,” he said.
“Given where we are economically as a nation, it is vital to ensure that this ministry has the right set of skills and people to carry out its mandate. These initiatives were pursued by the ministry, not by chance, but were intentional in design and purpose to further nurture and spur the growth in the agriculture sector,” Gittens explained. (MM)