LAW TO PROTECT FARMERS’ CROPS, LIVESTOCK FINALLY PROCLAIMED
By Sheria Brathwaite
Legislation to help farmers protect their produce from thieves is now in force.
The Protection of Agricultural Products Act 2022 was proclaimed on Monday, according to the March 6, 2023 Official Gazette.
And while Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir has declared it a win for the farming community, chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul has had a less enthusiastic response, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Weir said the legislation was long overdue and he was satisfied that it properly represented the best interest of farmers who were key stakeholders in the creation of the document.
He said there were a few milestones about which he was especially pleased, including that under the Act, fines for praedial larceny are stiffer.
The Protection of Agricultural Products Act 2022 provides for fines of up to $100 000, imprisonment for five years, or both. Before the enactment of the legislation, the maximum fine was $5 000.
Weir added that the Act has also reactivated Operation Bird’s Eye, a collaboration that began in 2021 between the Barbados Police Service and the Barbados Defence Force to patrol targeted areas and carry out investigations.
The Agriculture Minister said farmers can also now use drone technology to secure their investment and the Act makes provision for them to use a chipping system to trace their livestock.
However, Paul said it was too early to sing the legislation’s praises.
“Legislation has been passed before and the passing of legislation is something we acknowledge, but whether or not it will have any significance is on its application. So we have to see, based on its passing, whether or not anything different will be done that has not been done in the past to reduce the stealing that occurs in the agriculture sector,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Yes, we acknowledge it but what is the implementation plan? How do we ensure that people adhere to the tenets of the legislation? What impact does it have on investment in agriculture? One of the main issues that we have is the investment being generated. The truth is, you are not going to get greater investment than you are seeing at the moment if people don’t think that they would be able to make an adequate return on their investment; this is a fundamental thing we are not tackling. If the private sector has a level of confidence, we can have real growth in this sector so we await to see what the impact of this legislation would be.”
Earlier this week, small farmer Anthony Charles reported $2 000 worth of cassava had been stolen from his property in Ebenezer, St Philip, while chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited Mark Sealy said he was aware that a field of sugarcane belonging to at least one private farmer was hit by thieves.