Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
ST JOHN'S, Antigua:
ANTIGUA'S AGRICULTURE Minister Hilton Baptiste has voiced his personal support for farmers who take the law into their hands against those who would rob them of their livelihood.
"One of these days somebody is going to hurt somebody ... . You're gonna hear farmers killing three or four people around the region and I will celebrate that, I am not going to cry! I will find the money to help those farmers to (get) lawyers to help themselves," he told Friday's opening session of the Caribbean-Media Sensitization Workshop at the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort.
Baptiste said as a child, he spent time farming with his grandmother and despite the many technological advances, it remains "hard back-breaking work". For this reason, he can empathise with farmers affected by praedial larceny. "Now when you produce your food and watch the trees and crops and ... somebody go and harvest them. Is not just cry you want to cry. You want to kill somebody," said Baptiste.
25% of agri produce stolen
Lamenting that some 25 per cent of fruits, vegetables and livestock produced in Antigua and Barbuda are stolen, the agriculture minister suggested that this rate was same for the region and pointed out that it was organised to the extent that there was thriving intra-regional trade in stolen farm produce.
He explained: "In Dominica, they find export market for it, stolen goods. In Antigua, it's going to Guadeloupe on boats. It's a problem!"
In Jamaica, the crippling cost of praedial larceny has been conservatively estimated at J$6 billion per year. Despite the appointment of a praedial larceny prevention coordinator and Farmers Watch, a community initiative aimed at getting people to share information they have about theft of farm produce, the problems remain unchecked.