Current Act lacking

Praedial larceny has been undermining the work of farmers in this country and by extension the development of the agricultural sector, and the existing legal framework has failed to properly address the theft of agricultural produce.

That’s according to Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who described the present law addressing praedial larceny as inefficient and ineffective. His comments came yesterday in the House of Assembly as he presented Government’s case for creating and seeking parliamentary approval for the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Bill.

“The act of theft, Mr. Speaker, is one of selfishness, thinking only of yourself, which from a philosophical perspective ought to be frowned upon. It is in fact the lowest form of ethical behaviour known… It takes no consideration whatsoever in appreciating the damage being done, not only to the farmer that suffers the loss of his produce and the undermining of his economic well-being, but the selfishness, Sir and blinkered myopic views, when all of the thieving is combined together, undermine a sector that has tremendous capacity to develop food security and sovereignty for all Barbadians,” he said.

Minister Estwick’s comments came as he said that whereas before the agricultural sector and the livelihoods of farmers were being threatened by crooks, now the actual lives of farmers are under threat. Moreover, he said the act of stealing agricultural produce is putting a sector, which has “fundamental opportunities for wealth creation” in this country, at risk.

He explained that while successive administrations have tried to deal with this whole notion of praedial larceny, they did not properly address all the issues. He made the point as he noted among those challenges has been the difficulty in determining whether that produce was stolen. He noted also there were capacity issues at the level of the police force and the court system, added to the fact that there were also no elements of traceability in the law.

“There are several deficiencies present in the Act; the manner in which the Act is executed itself [and] the present operational and administrative environment in which the Act is implemented, is also inadequate. These deficiencies rendered the Praedial Larceny Prevention Act ineffective,” he said.

He added that that piece of legislation also did not allow for fines and penalties to be applied to persons who received stolen agricultural produce; the legislation was focused on the thief being caught and taken before the courts. The Minister further explained that the present legislation only permits mandatory issuance of certificates of purchase for produce outside a public market, but not within the public market, which he said was a glaring error.

“The Act does not address the treatment of imports or domestic commodities being offered for sale at farmers’ markets. This is a new paradigm for the selling of agricultural produce in Barbados, but is not classified within the context of markets under the Praedial Larceny Prevention legislation,” he said.

Estwick added that there are also no provisions at all to any significant extent for an effective traceability system for produce found in the possession of a suspected offender. An even more glaring omission, the Minister said, is that the Act failed to include all forms of agricultural production such as ornamentals, horticultural products, fruits, seeds and hydroponics.

Additionally, the minister said that the Act did not make provision for a mechanism to be put in place for the collection of statistical data on praedial larceny. As a result, he further noted, there are no institutional mechanisms in place at present to monitor, analyse, evaluate and report on the prevalence of praedial larceny and its impact economically in this country. (JRT)

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