A government minister believes perpetrators of praedial larceny must feel the full weight of the law. Their illegal activity, he said, leaves seasoned farmers to recoup losses from stolen crops and affects younger persons who are still learning all that they can about what it takes to function in the sector.
Ryan Straughn, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, shared this view as he spoke on the floor of the House of Assembly on Tuesday on the Protection of Agricultural Products Bill 2022. In his remarks, Straughn lamented the seemingly wide-spread instances of praedial larceny in the country, and singled out in particular a situation at the Milton Lynch Primary School, where stakeholders at the school needed to spend $2200 on barbed wire to protect the crops in their kitchen garden.
“I said to myself ‘who in their right mind, seeing a very positive project which would teach young boys the importance of being able to do farming in a very small space… who would steal produce from young students in this country?’ I still can’t fathom that. The school had to spend $2200 not in buying more seeds, or to expand the garden, not in buying more fertilizer, but $2200 in order to try to prevent people from stealing the produce of the school.
“That alarmed me,” he said.
Straughn insisted that though the project was not in any way on a large commercial scale in the same vein as some other farms around the island, it was a source of a small but important revenue to the school as it taught the young students a new skill in crop production, which is needed at this time as the island looks to improve its food security.
Under the Protection of Agricultural Products Bill, 2022, persons found guilty of praedial larceny will face a maximum fine of $100 000 or five years in prison.
“I support this bill not just in the context for the protection of agricultural products, but in helping to build out amongst the young people in this country, a level of expertise that would see us being able to maximise the yields of the small kitchen garden that we may have. If you have a quarter acre, half acre or an acre or some family land put down that you can do so… in order to ensure that we as a country starting at the community level, can achieve food and nutritional security which is part of the mandate of the Ministry of Agriculture. We can understand what food security really means at the household level, community level, and national level.”
Member of Parliament for the City, Corey Lane, also voiced his support for the bill, citing the unfortunate situations in the past where younger persons were discouraged from taking up crop production or livestock rearing as a valuable income stream. It was his view that praedial larceny and other negative behaviours must be stamped out if younger persons are to see the true value in the farming industry.
“I remember as a teenager in the late 90s going to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and saying to them ‘one of the ways that we can engage bored and unattached young people is by the way of agriculture’. I was turned away many times, saying that young people are not interested in agriculture, young people don’t want to get their hands dirty, young people see agriculture as slavery and they don’t want to be involved. They were saying that to a young person who had a lot of young peers who wanted to be involved in agriculture.
“I have lived to the point where all Barbadians can see the evidence, that agriculture has now been made so sexy in this country,” he stated. (SB)