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Prospere Condemns Reported Practice of ‘Spiking’ Crops to Deter Thieves

By Reginald Andrew
Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere
Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere

Reports that some local farmers have resorted to taking some unconventional methods to ward off thieves have not gone down well with Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere.

Prospere, who is unhappy with the illegal practices reportedly being undertaken by some farmers to deter thieves, decries the praedial larceny  that affects this sector.

He said that although the department has not substantiated these alleged reports circulating, the issue warrants a thorough investigation.

Praedial larceny is a major problem for farmers and an impediment to them increasing their production.

The reports circulating on social media platforms depicted videos alleging that farmers infused spikes or pins into the plantain plant to deter the bandits.

At a recent media briefing Prospere objected to such practices and urged farmers to desist from such actions, which can be harmful to consumers.

“I have heard of it, but I have not seen it anywhere. And if it is something that’s happening it is very unfortunate for us,” Prospere told reporters.

“Sometimes we don’t understand the pressures that our farmers go through when they invest their time and money into production  and when they are ready to harvest somebody else would  collect it,” he said. “And that is why praedial larceny is the main (negating) factor in the agricultural sector that we need to address.”

Presently, he explained, there is a small unit of about 20 persons attached to the Praedial Larceny Unit within the Ministry of Agriculture, who have to monitor “thousands and thousands of acres” of food crop.

The minister noted that apart from the Praedial Larceny Unit’s team members, the authorities need to establish “community farming groups” to assist those teams.

“The praedial larceny small team is just not sufficient to be able to address the issues of praedial larceny,” said Prospere.

Nevertheless, he feels, it is rather unfortunate that customers would visit the market to purchase their provisions, only to find out that the bananas or plantain purchased have  needles and pins inside them.

“This is not what we expect from persons  but within the agriculture sector, you can invest your time and resources but you may never be able to reap the benefits at the end of the day, because of praedial larceny,” the minister declared.

Saying that the ministry strongly condemns this practice, he said: “This is something that should never happen…and this is something that we will never encourage as a ministry.”

While such theft is almost universal, this term is primarily used in the Caribbean region where it is widely acknowledged to be a practice negatively impacting development of agriculture.

Praedial larceny of crops, livestock, and fish and seafood (including the products of aquaculture) results in farmers and fishers suffering heavy losses, making them reluctant to invest. USAID has noted that praedial larceny, “robs legitimate producers, stifles incentives for farming entrepreneurs and, adversely affects the poor”. Furthermore, it acts as a strong disincentive for younger people to stay on the land, which is also a worldwide problem.

A Caribbean-wide study by FAO found that 98% of all producers surveyed had experienced produce theft, amounting to over 300,000 fisherfolk families and well over a million crop and livestock farmers. More than 90% of those interviewed agreed that it was the single greatest disincentive to investment in agriculture

Reports indicate that while most Caribbean governments have passed legislation intended to protect against praedial larceny, the issue has been relatively unsuccessful. Steps taken have included farmer and trader registration, limits on the times when products can be transported, the requirement for traders to issue receipts and keep copies, steps to address traceability, a Praedial Larceny Offenders Registry, and a Praedial Larceny hotline.

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, farmers are required to be registered and issued with an ID Card, to place an identification mark on all agricultural produce or livestock being transported, to ensure the identification of the goods can be easily seen by the police, and to always be able to produce a valid farmers’ ID card, a seller’s certificate, and a receipt or other acceptable explanation for being in possession of the goods.

Nevertheless, such measures have received little support in the Caribbean, from either farmers or the authorities and have had little impact. The use of heavy fines has been advocated in Jamaica but the detection rate is very low rendering the threat of fines meaningless.

Community policing by the farmers has possibilities as strangers can be monitored. Building fences can also offer some protection, although some farmers find the cost of these to be too high.

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