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With several farmers having reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to praedial larceny, the agricultural sector was today reminded of its role in ensuring updated legislation on this issue becomes a reality.

The reminder came as Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, addressed the start of a consultation to update the Draft Praedial Larceny Legislation, on the Zoom platform.

While noting the last set of numbers he had seen at the Ministry showed losses in the millions, as they sought to quantify how much people were losing, he stated:

“What we have come to do is to address this legislation to give you the stakeholders a chance to participate and to remind everybody that it is this Government’s commitment to make sure that when this legislation is laid in Parliament, it is what you the stakeholders have asked for and what you have contributed to and not something that we have determined we want and then you are left to play catch up.”

Deeming it a “significant” piece of legislation, Mr. Weir recalled the journey started in 2018, when Government agreed to repeal the legislation on praedial larceny and ensure consultation with stakeholders to bring it in line with what was required for the 21st Century, in relation to mitigating any opportunities for engagement in theft crop.

Giving his thoughts on the legislation, the Agriculture Minister remarked that he would like to see the sector being able to use technology to guarantee that “any produce being sold to the public, be it by a vendor, in a supermarket, minimart, shop, community or wherever, that that item should be traced back to a farm and indeed a farm gate”.

“I strongly recommended that we have some form of traceability that would transform this sector into one that is driven by technology and into one that embraces technology for all of our deliverables.

“It therefore means that our farmers and farming community and equally our vendors and stakeholders, must play a role in embracing what we are considering to be the way forward and that if we can get everybody to conform to having their items tracked from seed to table, then it would mean that we would go a long way in locking out praedial larceny,” he maintained.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir. (FP)

Mr. Weir also suggested the use of drone and radio frequency technology, in addition to traceability technology, to provide protection to farmers.

Members of the farming community were also reminded that the Prime Minister, in addressing the nation during the first period of COVID-19 pandemic, last year, had also made it clear she wanted a unit set up within the Royal Barbados Police Force to help battle and deal with praedial larceny.

The Minister also made an appeal to all Barbadians, supermarkets, shops, vendors, restaurants, hoteliers and public markets. “I want to call on all of you to recognise that if you are purchasing primary agricultural produce from people who are engaging in praedial larceny, you are equally as guilty as a person that is committing the offence.

“I also want to warn all of those state-owned enterprises, particularly the BADMC [Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] that they now need to put measures in place to be able to satisfy me, as Minister, that your Board, that your activities, in terms of your procurement for livestock and for primary agricultural produce, is tracked and properly monitored, so that you are not supporting this illegal activity as well.”

While further emphasising that participation in the consultation would assure the nation gets the legislation it deserves, Mr. Weir stressed: “We are going to be serious about agriculture and food security in Barbados.”

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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