The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been sitting on a comprehensive study, financed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, which offers a number of recommendations for arresting this devastating crime. Here are some of the findings and proposed actions.
CARICOM loses in the region of US$321 million annually or an estimated 17.9 per cent of regional agricultural output.
The social implications are as serious in nature, as it is estimated that this crime is the most extensive among all crimes in CARICOM member states in terms of persons and families who are affected.
There is a failure to recognise the deep-rooted social and economic consequences, with members of the police and judiciary, key players in the fight against farm theft, seemingly unaware of the extent to which it has long moved from being petty crime to a very serious offence.
For this reason, sanctions handed down in the courts are often inappropriate, inadequate and most definitely not a deterrent.
Frustrated farmers report only an estimated 45 per cent of farm theft to the police regionally.
A receipt-book system similar to the one used in Jamaica is recommended for review in all CARICOM member state where it is in use.
It is recommended that vendors be brought under the receipt-book system, and so should the higglers/hucksters and middlemen.
Recommendation 12 echoes the call by Senator Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, for the establishment of a victim compensation fund, with built-in safeguards against fraud/corruption.
See details in our continued feature tomorrow.