|Dr. David Estwick??|
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, has been giving some insight into how amendments to the Praedial Larceny legislation would provide relief to beleaguered farmers.
Describing crop theft as one of the major issues affecting the agricultural sector, he admitted that his Ministry could not tackle such a scourge on its own but would require support from multiple stakeholders, particularly the farming community.
Speaking to the Barbados Government Information Service recently, Dr. Estwick explained that the amendments would seek to bring stakeholder relationships together in a more organised and coordinated fashion.
Some of the new features of the legislation he outlined were the establishment of a national hotline within the Ministry of Agriculture, closer cooperation with the Royal Barbados Police Force, and the implementation of a more effective traceability system.
"We are [exploring the possibility] of setting up a special squad that deals specifically with praedial larceny…we are looking at having discussions with the Royal Barbados Police Force to have a similar arrangement, [for example], island constables with the power to arrest and they can work with the police department…bearing in mind that the police have their own human resource constraints," the Agriculture Minister said.
With regard to the traceability system, Dr. Estwick maintained that a new mechanism would be employed where each group of products are tagged with a number which can be tracked from the producer to the consumer.
"[This way] you can easily identify at any points of the chain, from the retailer, wholesaler and producer that the product came from a particular group or source. I think this will make a big difference in the fight against praedial larceny. We are also looking at some technological inputs…There are some which utilise Geographical Information Systems that can also assist in the fight against praedial larceny… I think the critical element is going to be the traceability component," the Agriculture Minister pointed out.
He, however, stressed that in order for the system to work, farmers and other stakeholders would have to "buy in" to it and give it their full support.
"[Farmers] must work with us and become part of the system. If they refuse to do this, then the whole system will break down because only the farmers can work it. The Ministry can only provide that infrastructure but if farmer X decides that he is not getting involved and he does his own thing…, then you will have a problem," he admitted.
Dr. Estwick added that consumers have a vital role to play in this process, urging them not to buy produce which they suspected might be stolen or if they had doubts about its origin.
"The reality is that not only do they put themselves at risk but they put their children at risk because they don’t know how long [ago] they were sprayed, they don’t know the conditions of storage or the sanitary or phytosanitary dynamics in relation to the products," he underlined.
In this regard, the Agriculture Minister is urging all farmers, whether large or small, to register with the Ministry so the authorities can adequately safeguard against the scourge of crop theft.