Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir has expressed frustration that efforts to combat crop and livestock theft are being hindered by citizens and other farmers repeatedly hiding information that could lead to investigations and arrests.

The minister’s remarks came after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with China on Sunday, aimed at expanding Barbados’ agricultural capabilities, at the Ministry of Agriculture’s offices at Graeme Hall.

Weir told reporters that while legislation like the Protection of Agricultural Products Act of 2022 has instituted penalties for agricultural theft, Barbadians remain reluctant to provide intelligence that could lead to arrests.

“I’ve been monitoring the complaints we have been getting from people and I just want to give Barbadians the assurance that whilst we are working from our end to help them with the problem, they too must join with us in making sure we can tackle this problem heads on,” he said. “There is no good in having legislation when you don’t have intelligence, and I am sure there are several people out there who are aware of the culprits, [and] rather than report them, they actually purchase the produce from them, so we do have a problem that we need to fix.”

The minister revealed that some farmers are even aware of individuals engaged in predial larceny, including colleagues within the agricultural community.

“My greatest disappointment is how people cover up these things. Many farmers know exactly who they are as well, and I’ve had complaints from farmers who have said to me that it’s their own colleagues that are engaging in predial larceny,” he said.

While welcoming international support like that from China and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the area of technology, Weir added that “we need the benefit from intelligence, and that requires our people”.

The agriculture minister also urged strict enforcement when farm theft cases reach the courts: “Frankly, I am not going to try to determine how these matters are handled before the law court, but I would be extremely disappointed if these people don’t get the maximum sentencing that is available in the legislation. If we don’t send a clear message to people who engage in predial larceny, a slap on the risk is really not going to cut it and we will continue to have a problem.” (SB)

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