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Praedial larcenyt
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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]. 

The issue of praedial larceny is one that has been haunting and breaking the back of our farmers for decades. I know of an actual story where a perpetrator was taken to court and convicted for stealing a farmer’s produce. He was ordered by the court to pay a sum of money. He went and stole produce from the said farmer, sold them and paid the farmer from his “earnings”. The truth is, praedial larceny is not only hurting the farmers, it is also hurting every community, the country’s economy and hence our very development. Praedial larceny retards our economic advancement.

There are laws to deal with praedial larceny and its culprits. However, leniency from the victim, the court and mediocre penalties have done nothing but prolong and escalate this terrible practice. One way of addressing the problem is to have buyers recording the farmer’s name and identification number using the “farmer’s ID’ card, the produce type and amount and having the farmer’s name and signature on such document. A buyer who fails to authenticate the legitimacy of his transaction by his or her inability to produce this document if and when ask to do so by the police would be in breach of a regulation. It means that if such regulation is not in place then it should be.

The appropriate framework must be put in place to combat this problem. The rural constables who are especially assigned to deal with praedial larceny (no disrespect to anyone, their training or lack of it), do not command the respect needed to execute their duties effectively. If they are not regular police officers then their duties must be spelt out clearly. If the calibre of officers used in this department is to juxtapose the government esteem of agriculture then we are surely awaiting the official obituary of this vital industry.

Austere examples must be made of those, regardless of stature, who are caught purchasing produce illicitly. If the laws are there, then the vanguards of our judicial system must do everything to enforce them with maximum efficiency. A perceived weak judicial system that seems only to dishearten farmers would deepen the stigma attached to agriculture in our country and promote praedial larceny. We will continue to lose our farmers. The implications of this could be catastrophic. Effectively dealing with the issue of praedial larceny is one way of boosting our agriculture sector. An effective plan would not only stem praedial larceny but it would also ensure the farmers are respected which in turn would attract persons, especially the young, to join their ranks.

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3 replies on “Get serious about praedial larceny”

  1. Brown Boy USA says:

    I find your article to be on point and valid. However, I do not believe that everything should be deal with by legislation and the police as far as this matter is concern. It is also the responsibility of every produce buyer to be aware from whom and where the products they are buying coming from without being mandated to do so. There seem to be a lack of public responsibility as far as this is concern in our modern day Vincentian society. Everyone is so taken up with their own lives that they could care less of others. We need to change that and go back to old days where people look out for one other and conduct business in a fair and caring manner. While it is the police duty to conduct and prosecute perpetrators of praedial larceny, I do not believe that instituting legislation to mandate transaction between farmers and buyers, as good as the idea sounds, would help combat this problem. A person selling any agricultural produce can assort that they produce it themselves or got it from some other family member. People need to take responsibility to ensure that things are done right to combat this problem. Law enforcement alone can only do so much, it also need the action by the people to combat this issue. What is needed also is stronger penalties for praedial larceny, which not only include restitution in term of money, but also order the perpetrator to perform labor services to the victim farmer for a period of time without pay.

    Nonetheless, good article and well deserved issue to highlight.

  2. In addition to the police and auxillary police, farmers must form their own network to monitor their crops and the activities surrounding the sale of farm products. In the case of livestock, each animal should be branded with the farmer’s unique ID. This ID must be confidential and known only to the farmer and the regulator. In that case, butchers must be made to have each animal inspected by an agricultural or police inspector to verify the animal ID with the ID of the person who sold the animal, before the animal is butchered and before any payment is made to the seller.

    It is a disgrace that farmers, the life-blood of our national economy, is in peril of hanging up their hoes due to the dis-incentive of not profiting from their hard work. The very persons who despise farming could be the ones benefitting from this cruel practice of praedial larceny. These teefing persons must be severely punished by the law when found guilty – a fine and a warning are not enough.

  3. C. ben-David says:

    Same old, same old. This problem never goes away and can be traced back to the slavery era.

    I don’t have any answers except that I got so fed up with the chronic theft of tree crops and the destruction and theft of ornamental plants and trees that I finally gave up by selling the only piece of land that I ever owned in SVG — a more beautiful and fertile one-acre holding with a great view of the sea and surrounding hills you could never imagine — on which I planned to build my retirement home, settling instead for a less desirable rebuilding of a family property at a far less spacious and attractive locale instead.

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