At least two Members of Parliament believe farmers can help themselves by working together to acquire the necessary tools to combat praedial larceny.
Attorney General and St Joseph MP Dale Marshall and Member of Parliament for St James South Sandra Husbands offered the suggestion on Tuesday as they contributed to debate in the House of Assembly on the Protection of Agricultural Products Bill 2022, which, among other things, introduces a series of penalties for crop and livestock theft.
Husbands said a cooperative approach could help farmers tackle the vexing issue of praedial larceny.
“Building a culture of cooperatives is important, and these can help farmers to make greater profits by going after larger markets, including export ones, and they can also come together and purchase drones, fencing and other security equipment necessary to prevent crop theft,” she said.
Marshall, meantime, urged farmers to “meet Government halfway” in terms of putting their own preventative measures in place.
He said the Barbados Police Service had been successful in dealing with praedial larceny in recent times. The Attorney General said they had carried out joint patrols with the Barbados Defence Force, using drones and other specialised equipment, and managed to bring some culprits to justice.
Marshall also urged buyers to check the source of produce if purchasing from someone other than an authorised seller.
“If a person goes to a hardware store offering to sell the owner 100 bags of cement, four dozen pan carts, and other goods, the first thing the owner will ask him is where he got them from. Likewise, if someone came to your door offering to sell you a flat-screen television, would you not ask him the same thing? Therefore, when it comes to agricultural produce, even if you are getting it at a good price, you need to find out where the seller sourced it,” he urged.
Meantime, Husbands, who is also Minister of State in Foreign Trade and Business Development, noted that praedial larceny is a problem not only here but throughout the Caribbean.
“Statistics have shown that the region, as a whole, loses some $321 million a year in agricultural produce to praedial larceny, and this is a serious matter, especially now we face threats to our food security, not only owing to the import situation but also in terms of drought, natural disasters and so on. It is estimated that Jamaica loses $25 million a year while St Vincent loses $1.5 million a year,” she said.
“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says praedial larceny creates a domino effect, in that it can force people out of the sector and discourage new farmers from coming in, and once people abandon farmland, sell it and it is then used for housing or commercial purposes, it is difficult to get it back into agricultural use.”
Husbands added that regional studies had shown that it was not only strangers who stole produce, but also other farmers “who may have an order to fill and because their land did not yield enough, they would seek to take it from another farmer’s land”.
“Sometimes those who were hired to protect the ground were stealing from it as well,” she added. (DH)