Supermarkets and hotels may be complicit in the trafficking of stolen farm produce, the head of the vendors association has charged, suggesting these, too, like vendors may need to be scrutinised.
Allister Alexander, president of the Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors, Entrepreneurs (BARVEN), said authorities must pay close attention not only to those caught or appear to be selling stolen produce, but also legitimate retailers, in order to make a significant dent in praedial larceny.
Responding to claims by Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul that stolen produce is possibly being sold at vendors markets, the BARVEN leader suggested that authorities should investigate whether supermarkets and hotels are doing the same.
Alexander told Barbados TODAY: “We know from intelligence that these things would end up in supermarkets and legitimate places because they put in a lot of systems that crime bosses can easily manoeuvre because all they have to do is to find a farmer who is a legitimate farmer, steal the things and then give it to them to sell to the supermarkets and to the hotels.
“These are realities. If you study it, when people involved in organised crime them ain’t got no time with the small vendors that will take time to pay them. They want their money one time so they will basically deal with big establishments.”
Paul said: “It is a suspicion on the part of farmers that much of the stolen produce that gets out there actually goes through some of those vendors markets because they are largely unregulated. And basically nobody is asking them to account as to how they come into possession of a lot of the produce being sold.”
But Alexander said BARVEN’s members were hurt by Paul’s statement since many of them are farmers and they are also victims of crop theft.
He said the association is willing to sit with authorities to find a workable solution which involved using intelligence on the ground and implementing a proper surveillance system.
“We know for a fact that the majority of vendors are not involved in any type of activity and receiving stolen goods. BARVEN is willing to sit down with the authorities to give their view on it,” Alexander said.
Last week, as she announced a 750-acre land cultivation project whose crops and livestock will need protection, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed that a Police Praedial Larceny Unit is to be set up.
Mottley who noted that crop and livestock theft is one of the biggest threats to agriculture insisted that Government is committed to putting an end to it as far as possible.
She said Attorney General Dale Marshall has agreed to issue instructions to the police to establish a dedicated unit for strict enforcement and also allow farmers to use drones to protect their crops and livestock.
“We welcome the unit and as I said, we are ready and willing to work with the authorities on this one,” Alexander said. [email protected]
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