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Stiffer penalties coming soon for praedial larceny

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This country’s Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson has drawn the public’s attention to three grave issues that are affecting the farming community.{{more}}

These issues of concern include: the theft of crops and livestock; damage to small livestock i.e. sheep and goat by stray dogs; and vandalism of government property.

Robertson disclosed that on the issue of praedial larceny, Rural Constables have been selected and are currently undergoing training. He expressed that in five weeks’ time, these persons will be ready for deployment in the communities. According to Robertson, this measure will allow farmers to plant their crops and rear their animals without any fear of loss due to theft by unscrupulous persons.

Commenting on the losses suffered by farmers, Robertson said: “While all of these things are happening, it seems as though some culprits in the society have sought to wreak havoc on our farmers.”

Robertson disclosed that within the last two weeks, the Ministry of Agriculture had received numerous complaints from farmers. In one instance, a farmer who had planted 300 to 400 holes of Portuguese yams met all gone when he went to harvest them, Robertson said.

He added that in Layou, a farmer reported that 14 of his small ruminants (goats and sheep), seven of which were pregnant and were due to give birth, disappeared overnight.

Robertson expressed that in Argyle, farmers are suffering the same fate as culprits go wild. He stated that farmers who leave their animals there return the next day to find them gone. Since that time, some animals at Argyle have been recovered with the assistance of the police, but several others cannot be located, disclosed Robertson.

He, however, added that the Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with the Royal St.Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, is trying to speed up the process to have a new piece of legislation in place to deal with praedial larceny.

“Persons fully know that under the old legislation, the Petit Theft Act, persons receive sentences that are trivial, i.e. three months, and six months and one year for stealing, whether a cow or agricultural produce that has substantial value. These things create what I call lack of confidence in our farmers to produce,” said Robertson.

“I am calling on all those persons who out there sit everyday and do absolutely nothing but prowl in the night to take farmers produce to desist from this habit,” he said, noting that the ministry’s officials are hoping that by bringing the new act, some relief will be brought to farmers as early as within the next four to five weeks.

Robertson said with the introduction of the law, persons found guilty will face stiffer penalties.

“When one of these culprits is caught, we can put such person away for a long time because in the new act it allows for persons to be imprisoned if found guilty of certain offenses up to five years and to pay fines upward of $10,000,” said Robertson, as he explained that these penalties are absent in the older version of the law. (HN)

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