The Ministry of Agriculture will seek to tackle ???head on’ the several challenges which are undermining productivity in the sector, particularly crop theft.

This assurance has come from Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, who said among the many problems faced by farmers, praedial larceny may be one of the most debilitating issues affecting the local sector.

Speaking during the Barbados Agricultural Society’s (BAS) Annual General Assembly at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort last Saturday, he said crop theft not only amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, but it discouraged farmers from continuing in active production.

Dr. Estwick revealed that his Ministry was "working aggressively" to ensure that the perpetrators received stiff penalties and, as such, the current legislation was being reviewed to redress its deficiencies.

"Consultations have been held with the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and the Royal Barbados Police Force and together efforts are being made to ensure enforcement of existing provisions of the legislation, as well as to strengthen those areas which we believe do not serve as a sufficient deterrent."

The Agriculture Minister also announced that his Ministry was seeking to reintroduce Certificates of Purchase, which are a requirement under the law.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture would collaborate with the BAS to determine how best the certificates could be reinstituted.

"Therefore, it is incumbent upon you the farmer to ensure that all your clients are issued with these certificates, so that when they are stopped by the police, they will be in a position to produce such as proof of purchase," Dr. Estwick disclosed.

The Minister also outlined another initiative which the Ministry would be pursuing to reduce the incidence of praedial larceny – the introduction of a traceability system.

"Such a system, which tracks the movement of food from the farm to the fork and which is used internationally as part of a food safety system, will require the registration of all producers, agro-processors and marketers of food items, as well as animals, across the chain. This will offer authorities an avenue through which the legality of goods supplied to the public can be verified," Dr. Estwick explained.??

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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