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Farm thieves may face $5m fine, name-and-shame campaign

Published:Thursday | May 19, 2022 | 12:07 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


AGRICULTURE MINISTER Pearnel Charles Jr has indicated that consideration is being given to increase the fines for praedial larceny to upwards of $5 million as part of measures to combat the illicit practice that has plagued Jamaica’s farmers for years.

Charles made the announcement Wednesday during a media briefing after his Sectoral Debate presentation a day earlier.

The minister used his parliamentary platform to launch the ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ food-security initiative.

The proposed $5-million fine would be a significant increase on the $40,000 or three years’ imprisonment offenders face under the Praedial Larceny (Prevention) Act.

Section 11 of the act says those penalties can be applied to any person who is suspected of possessing stolen produce or livestock, refuses to allow a search of his premises by the authorities, and is subsequently convicted for such offences.

Charles also expanded on proposals to use drone technology and a name-and-shame campaign to deter farm thieves.

“We will see the facilitation of drone technology training for members of established praedial larceny units to patrol farming communities, and we are going to encourage greater use of technology to assist with securing farms, including cameras and other technologies for fencing,” said Charles.

“We are going to facilitate the establishment of farm watch or beach watch groups to build farmer-fisher capacity and reduce vulnerability.”

The name-and-shame campaign will see the publication of the names and photos of convicted farm thieves in the print and electronic media.

Other measures to come into effect during the 2022-2023 fiscal year include the maintenance of a National Praedial Larceny database, which can highlight and map praedial larceny hotspots, larceny types and frequency in collaboration with the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Geo-Statistics Unit.

While the Ministry of Agriculture is reporting that 102 persons were arrested for praedial larceny during the 2021-2022 period, and over 70 animals recovered during that time, that effort is a drop in the bucket of an estimated $6 billion in annual losses to farm theft.