Tue | Sep 21, 2021

COVID not stopping thieves from cleaning out farmers

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 12:26 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Donald Clarke, farmer in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, said thieves have made off with 400 banks of yams.
Donald Clarke, farmer in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, said thieves have made off with 400 banks of yams.

As if the economic pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic weren’t enough, thieves have been cleaning out farmers in Lawrence Tavern.

Donald Clarke came close to tears as he told The Gleaner of how thieves are reaping the fruits of his labour in the west-rural St Andrew community, timing to perfection when to strike when produce is ready for market.

“When you are not there, dem go and go and reap what dem can reap,” said Clarke.

“You have plenty youngster and plenty big man within the area that don’t want to work. All dem want to do is to rub out hand middle,” he said, alluding to the rolling of marijuana cigarettes by unemployed boys and men.

“That can’t work,” Clarke added as he returned, with machete in hand, from his farm on Tuesday.

LIKING TO YAMS

The farmer shared that he plants a variety of produce, including pumpkin, yam, sorrel, plantain, ginger, and pine.

He said the thieves have especially taken set on his yam.

“Right now, me plant over 700 banks o’ yam and them dig it out and gone with more than 400. You become the loser,” he told The Gleaner.

He disclosed that last year, he was able to sell his yam for $6,000 per 100 pounds.

“You have to work hard, and you have to get man to work. You have to bring in man to work and pay them,” he said as he lashed out at the financial losses he has had to incur because of praedial larceny.

Farm theft in Jamaica is estimated conservatively at $6 billion per year.

Lamont Johnson, who plants cassava, lamented the financial toll from persistent raids of his farms.

“The virus come, and you would think dem would stay in and leave the things dem mek dem grow ... . A now them a t’ief it!

Johnson said that anticipated returns from the sale of plantain and pumpkin have evaporated.

He warned unsuspecting members of the public who purchase goods from people not known to be farmers to start asking probing questions about the sources of their produce.

“You see dem a road with big load and them is not a farmer and them not buying from farmer ... so a weh dem get it?

“... Nuff a it a t’ief dem t’ief it and carry it go sell all bout, and we weh sweat and batta-batta lef’ dry,” the farmer said.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com