Minister of Agriculture Roland Bhola is satisfied that the new approach given to the fight against praedial larceny is yielding results.
Minister Bhola used his contribution to the 2016 budget debate to provide the House of Representatives with statistics showing how useful the task force is to the affected farmers.
He reported that three months ago his ministry held a national symposium reviewing how the praedial larceny programme was being executed.
The senior Government Minister said although at that time there was a praedial larceny task force working in collaboration with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) significant problems were still emerging.
He said farmers were still complaining that whenever they reported a theft of their crops or animals destroying the produce it sometimes took days or weeks before anyone came to investigate the incident.
Minister Bhola said that as a result of the symposium a request was made to the Minister of National Security and the Acting Commissioner of Police to have someone from RGPF at the level of Sergeant upwards to head the task force.
Since then Inspector Eric Peters was assigned to the praedial larceny task force at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Minister Bhola said as a result of the new initiative undertaken five hundred and eighteen cases of praedial larceny were reported.
Four hundred and seventy-eight of the reports came directly from complainants, 14 from third party, and 28 was from praedial larceny officers meeting the perpetrators on the road.
The House was informed that 162 of those reports were already dealt with by the court.
Thirty-two persons were given prison sentence, 30 had to compensate the farmers for what they stole, 20 were fined, ten were reprimanded and discharged, and two were flogged, while 31 were dismissed because the farmers failed to show up at the court to take part in the proceedings.
Minister Bhola expressed the hopes that the Act could be amended to provide for stiffer penalties to the perpetrators.
According to the senior Government Minister, farmers were encouraged to get registered with the Extension Officers in their district, and all of the supermarkets, hotels and some of the restaurants were written to advising them that a database has been created with over six thousand farmers registered and having Identification (ID) cards.
He said the purchasers were advised to demand from those offering them agriculture crops to produce their ID card.
Minister Bhola also accused vendors of assisting the offenders of crop theft adding that there is need for these people to be also registered.
The Agriculture Minister informed the House that praedial larceny is a regional problem affecting farmers.
He pointed to a study conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which revealed that farmers throughout the region often lose between twenty to twenty-five percent of their produce from stealing.
He said it is believed that in the region, praedial larceny accounts for US $321M in losses to farmers.
Parliament was also informed that the fishing industry is also affected by the theft of boats and engines.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry and Fisheries, Alvin DaBreo gave the House an account of the fishing industry.
DaBreo who is responsible for Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment said that since 2005 the total loss of engines and boats amounted to over $1.4M.
He said that as a means of combating the problem, the Fisheries Division has embarked upon a project installing security lights in strategic locations in the various fishing communities.
Lights have already been installed at a cost of $130,000 in Sauteurs, St. Patrick’s, Duquense, Waltham and Victoria, St. Mark’s, and at Gouyave, St. John’s.
Mixed fortunes were recorded during the past year for the fishing industry.
The Minister of State reported that there was a five percent and a one percent reduction in the quality and value of fish production respectively up to the third quarter of 2015.
Minister DaBreo said last year Grenada netted $32,105,000 in fish exports, while this year it registered $32,298,000.
He added that although there was a reduction in the amount of fish sold, there was an increase in the price paid.