Farmers abusing receipt book system
An executive of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) has confirmed that farmers are guilty of abusing the receipt book system, which was designed to provide a solid paper trail of the sale of farm produce by legitimate farmers.
"Yes, it is a problem right around. It is very difficult to curtail and I investigate and I check it out and I know that farmers continue to do it; to sell receipts to other farmers," said Otis Sherman, chairman of the St Elizabeth Branch Societies of the JAS, while speaking at last Thursday's Gleaner 'Job Creation, Investment and Growth Forum' in Junction. "I always say to them , remember if you get caught, everything will come back to you, not the person you sell."
After a receipt book is sold by the JAS, a record of the farmer's name, phone number, farm location, crop type and acreage, as well as other relevant information, including the sequential numbers of the receipt, are entered into a computer database. The police are able to access this information if they stop a motorist or anyone else with crops and livestock, and use the information in investigating the legality of the sale.
However, verification of the person as a bona fide farmer and the location of the farm, as well as the crop being grown is done by extension officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
Sherman said that despite an ongoing public education programme by the JAS to get farmers to register, some still remain reluctant, and he noted that financial constraints have made it difficult for the extension officers to carry out the verification process more effectively.
Meanwhile, Richard Parchment, member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth, said he knew of at least one case of a 'genuine' farmer who abuses the system.
"The biggest thief in this area of agricultural produce that has been reported to me is a farmer. He plants what he steals. Him will plant 10 roots of lettuce but sell a thousand pounds every week because he has a farm. So these are some things that you have to monitor," he pointed out, before announcing that he had secured the donation of a vehicle specifically to help the Junction police tackle farm theft.
The new Toyota Hilux will be made available courtesy of BMR Renewable, which is constructing a facility at Munro in St Elizabeth, to supply 34 megawatts of electricity from wind power to the national grid.
Meanwhile, Shaun Nembhard, commercial services manager at the St Elizabeth Parish Council, disclosed that the search is on for appropriate location to build a centralised abattoir in the parish, through which all livestock slaughtered in the parish would be channelled and proper records kept. He was responding to Sherman's allegation that the absence of such a facility had resulted in an upswing in operations at informal abattoirs, where no attention was paid to public health or any other standards.
"I've spoken to some councillors from the parish council to look at a formal abattoir. Once every butcher has to take their animal there and all his receipts must be checked, there will be huge cut in the illegal activity," stated Sherman.