Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Senators condemn farm thieves

Gov’t set to tighten screws

Published:Saturday | June 5, 2021 | 12:10 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Dr Saphire Longmore.
Dr Saphire Longmore.

AS THIEVES continue to prey on local farmers, causing them great distress and frustration, the Government has signalled that steps are being made to amend two important pieces of legislation to increase the penalties for those who continue to fleece players in the agricultural sector of their livelihoods.

The response came in the Upper House of Parliament on Friday after Opposition Senator Lambert Brown bemoaned the sustained attack on farmers by those who remove their produce and animals without paying for them.

Lawmakers in the Senate were debating legislation which will formally merge the functions of the Agricultural Marketing Corporation with the Agro-Investment Corporation. The bill was passed with no amendment.

“One of the biggest problems facing the agriculture sector is praedial larceny,” Brown declared, contending that it was a significant disincentive to agricultural development in Jamaica.

Brown said that this perennial problem must be addressed decisively and he called on the rule of law to tackle the problem.

Farmers killed

He cited incidents in which farmers lost not only their investments to thieves, but also paid the ultimate price with their lives as they sought to protect their farms.

“In the name of Vivian Johnson, that Portland farmer who was killed; in the name of Jermaine Morris; and in the name of Farmer Greg, that productive farmer from Portmore, who we saw on television promoting his success – he also was killed,” said Brown as he appealed for effective legislation to tackle the problem.

Earlier this week, Morris, a crab farmer from Rock district near Falmouth in Trelawny, lost more than 90 per cent of his crabs worth roughly $200,000 after thieves raided his farm.

“The two-foot puss is too strong in the country. I want them to be put away through the rule of law,” Brown lamented.

In her remarks, Government Senator Dr Saphire Longmore said she was heartbroken when she saw the story about Morris’ loss.

Describing praedial larceny as a wicked act, Longmore encouraged the crab farmer not to give up but to take his business to another level.

Minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Leslie Campbell, who piloted the bill, noted that praedial larceny was not addressed in the proposed law. However, he acknowleged that praedial larceny has been a scourge in the society.

Campbell said that the agriculture ministry had made steps to have Cabinet approve the relevant amendments to the Praedial Larceny Prevention Act, as well as the Agricultural Produce Act, to strengthen and include relevant provisions such as increasing low fines to seek to deter praedial thieves.