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Legislation Coming To Increase Fines For Farm Theft

Legislation Coming To Increase Fines For Farm Theft
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Karl Samuda. (FILE)

KINGSTON (JIS) -- The Government is looking to amend the Agricultural Produce Act to increase fines for offences from a maximum of $250,000 to $3 million or up to five years imprisonment. Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Karl Samuda, said the move is part of strategies to combat praedial larceny. He said the amendments will include a redefinition of praedial larceny to include livestock, fisheries, lumber and other classes of agricultural produce. “Farmers have been working very hard to provide for their families and we have to do everything within our power to offer them protection from those who would simply want to rob them of their produce and livestock,” he noted. Mr. Samuda was speaking at a praedial larceny workshop for clerks of the courts and the police at the Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort and Spa, Runaway Bay, St. Ann recently.

He said the Ministry will be strengthening the traceability of livestock through the National Animal Identification and Traceability System and other agricultural produce through the Receipt Book System.

“To make this work, we are asking police officers across Jamaica to take the fight to the praedial thieves. We are asking for rigorous investigation of praedial larceny cases, regular patrols of farming districts and an increase in police presence in areas where praedial larceny is prevalent,” Mr. Samuda said.

He noted that the police will be asked to do regular stop and search of vehicles transporting agricultural produce and to ensure the legitimacy of agricultural receipts.

“They will also be asked to participate in ongoing joint operations with public health inspectors, who inspect abattoirs, meat shops and other wholesalers/retailers of farm produce to ensure compliance. We will also be asking for greater collaboration between the police and the clerks of the courts in each parish in the preparation and prosecution of praedial larceny cases,” he informed.

It is estimated that some $6 billion is lost annually to theft of agricultural produce and equipment.

Mr. Samuda said praedial larceny undermines the efforts of farmers, robs families of income, while hurting the economy.

“This is a serious crime that cannot be allowed to go unpunished. Perpetrators must be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Mr. Samuda noted that the Praedial Larceny Prevention Coordination Unit has been working overtime and has also been collaborating with the Office of the Chief Justice to sensitise parish court judges, clerks of the courts and the police about the devastating impact of farm theft on the Jamaican economy, rural communities and the public health of the country.

One of the recommendations arising from these meetings was to identify a cadre of police and clerks of the courts to receive specialised training in the investigation and prosecution of praedial larceny cases.