Oct 1, 2008

Crop gone

by Carlos Atwell

NATIONNEW.COM Sep. 29, 2008. Government's plans for increased cassava production to reduce the cost of animal feed have hit an early snag – crop thieves.

Manager at Friendship Estate, St Michael, Patrick Bethell, called in the Press yesterday to express his frustration.

Bethel said a perpetrator had "sampled" his one-acre cassava crop twice so far, once on Friday where 37 plants were lost and again yesterday morning when 21 plants were stolen.

He said cassava took about six months to mature and longer if you wanted to use them in pone or in animal feed, but his crop was only four months old.

The farmer of more than 40 years' experience says he has had enough.

"If this continues, I will destroy them [the cassava] myself. Why grow them for someone else to get for free? In fact, if praedial larceny isn't dealt with, you can forget about agriculture in Barbados altogether because how can you tell the youth to grow food just for people to steal? You are misleading them!" he charged.

Bethell also called for the police and the media to take up the fight against praedial larceny and treat it as a "pet project" since it was something which affected the entire country.

"We are citizens producing a commodity and I expect the same response as if someone had broken into a shop," he said.

Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, was on hand and reiterated the call for a dedicated police presence.

"Two years ago the Commissioner of Police agreed to have a special unit put in place specifically to deal with praedial larceny, but to date, this has not been set up.

"It makes farmers feel like the police and the judiciary are not taking them seriously. We need enforcement and commitment in having a special unit which could respond quickly to every call," he said.

Paul said he was of the opinion there was an overall ring of thieves involved as all the stolen crops "had to be going somewhere".

He added there was also a hidden danger in praedial larceny as sometimes farmers had to spray their crops for pests, but the thieves would not know this and then would sell the produce directly to the public.

"It is the responsibility of supermarkets and the public to ensure they only buy produce from 'bona fide' sources," he said. (CA)

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