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Cattle to be tagged in praedial larceny fight

Published:Thursday | April 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke makes his contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday.

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

CALLING HIMSELF the implementer, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke yesterday urged his opposite number, J.C. Hutchinson, to give him more ideas on how to tackle praedial larceny, promising to put them in train if they prove to be practicable.

Clarke extended the invitation, even as he announced what he called "a foolproof traceability system, which involves the tagging of the entire cattle programme".

The announcement brought laughter in the House of Representatives as Hutchinson lamented that Clarke has now decided to embrace an idea he espoused six years ago.

Clarke, who was contributing to the 2014-2015 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, said under the ear-tagging programme, every head of cattle on the island will be tagged and issued a passport.

"This is not a gimmick," Clarke said, while noting that the passport will contain information about the animal and "will be mandatory for the movement of the animal".

He also said a DNA database for all tagged animals has been developed and the tags are being procured.

The minister said the tags are to arrive to facilitate the commencement of tagging after June.

It was not the first time Clarke was announcing the use of modern technology to fight praedial larceny. Last year, he announced that his ministry was working with a telecoms service provider in carrying out the fight.


"Technology will have to be brought to bear in a very significant way, and I am not ruling out the chip. Anything that can prevent it, I am into it," he said last year.

The minister did not provide an update on that programme, but said a mobile app has been developed in collaboration with the Mona School of Business and Management, which will enable the police to have instant access to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's farmer registration database via cellular phones.

"This will make a critical difference to our capacity to combat praedial larceny," the minister said.

Yesterday, Clarke told legislators the Government, for the first time, has established a praedial larceny unit. Some $7.3 million has been set aside in this year's Budget for a praedial larceny prevention programme. Of the amount, $4.3 million is to pay staff, and $1.5 million is to cover goods and services. The remainder will pay for travel expenses and subsistence for employees.

Following Hutchinson's "chip in cow" pronouncement in 2008, the Government allocated $1.9 million in the 2010-2011 Budget to establish an identification and traceability system, which involved ear tagging.

Donovan Stanberry, the permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, told The Gleaner the funds were used to establish the database to store DNA and other information to support the tagging system.

Meanwhile, a ministry paper tabled in the House indicated that 658 reports of praedial larceny were received between January 1 and October 31, 2013, resulting in 362 prosecutions and 78 convictions.