Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Get serious about farm theft - Phillips

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 12:03 AMChristopher Serju
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips makes a case for the Government to put much more thought and resources into its efforts to curb farm theft.

The scourge of farm theft continues to thrive in Jamaica in large measure due to the failure of successive administrations to recognise and treat it with the seriousness of other major crimes, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips charged on Wednesday.

"People often work with a false understanding of the nature of the problem that you facing with praedial larceny. People have a view that is a man walking by and chopping two bunches of banana or maybe him pick 10 oranges. That's not the problem," Phillips said at the relaunch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society's (JAS) president's leadership breakfast.

"The problem that you are having is one of organised crime; of people who plan to reap massively where they did not sow. People who are devoting resources in transportation, in technologies and all of that to bring the farmer into bankruptcy. And in the same way that we know that bad money drives out good, criminal operators in this sector will bring the sector, as a whole, to its knees and we need to ensure that we devote that level of resources in dealing with this problem," the former finance minister told his audience at board room of the JAS' Church Street, downtown Kingston head office.

Describing farm theft as one of the big deterrents to investments in agriculture, ranking alongside absence of adequate infrastructure and shortage of affordable financing, he offered a solution for cauterising the annual losses. These losses, Bobby Pottinger former JAS president said now stand at between $8 billion and $10 billion.


Focused approach needed


This is especially urgent in light of the fact that the Band-Aid prescriptions and knee jerk reactions over the years have not worked, hence the need for a more focused and structured approach.

"What is essentially needed is that the security forces treat it on the same footing as it does narcotics or scamming or any other such areas of crime. This would require that in the same way that you have an anti-narcotics branch of the police force, you need a praedial larceny element that devotes the same level of investigative resources, the same focus on apprehension of those involved in it, in order to get convictions and put an end to it," he said.