Agriculture minister vows to take the fight to praedial thieves
With praedial larceny a long-standing problem for the more than 230,000 farmers across the island, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has announced multiple initiatives aimed at reinvigorating the praedial larceny prevention programme.
Speaking at a media briefing, Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier acknowledged the negative repercussions that theft of agricultural crops and livestock have on the country.
"Praedial larceny undermines productivity, threatens livelihood, and is a crime that must be arrested. Our estimates are that $5 billion is lost annually as a consequence of praedial larceny and farm theft. That would amount to some $50 billion over the last decade," the minister explained.
"Praedial larceny is also the greatest deterrent to agricultural growth, given that this scourge discourages new players from entering and investing in the sector," noted Kellier.
The minister announced the appointment of Deputy Superin-tendent of Police (DSP) Kevin Francis as head of the Praedial Larceny Unit. Included in this new team is Sergeant Damian Harry, who will be the praedial larceny prevention officer, and Trudy-Ann Edwards, the praedial larceny prevention coordinator.
"The significance of these appointments is that being active members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), they will have access to and will be able to mobilise members of the entire force across Jamaica to deal with praedial larceny issues," Kellier announced.
"We now expect an intensification of operations on the ground," he added.
Kellier announced that he will continue to work on a "slew" of legislative amendments in an attempt to deter acts of praedial larceny. Among those changes, Kellier said he will propose to expand the
definition of praedial larceny to cover livestock, including fish, and will also seek to "significantly" increase fines for breaches under the respective acts.
The minister also used the occasion to publicise that the recently launched National Animal Identification and Traceability System, which he said is an integral part of the anti-praedial larceny effort, now has in its database 500 animals.