PHOTO: DONALD DE LA HAYE Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green.

KINGSTON, Jamaica–November 26th, 2020–Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, is reporting an increase in the arrests of praedial larcenists this year, stemming from new approaches implemented by the Government to tackle farm theft.

Praedial larceny is defined by dictionaries as meaning the theft of growing crops.

“Since January [to October], we have had 69 arrests compared to 39 arrests for the same period last year. So there is almost a 100 per cent increase in arrests since this new approach in praedial larceny,” he said.

“We are seeing great success in parishes like St. Thomas,” he pointed out.

The Minister was addressing the virtual staging of the Eat Jamaican Day 2020 Celebration.

While not revealing the new approaches, Mr. Green noted that focus has been placed on strengthening the work of the Praedial Larceny Prevention Coordination Unit, including the acquisition of seven new vehicles.

The Unit collaborates with the Ministry of National Security and other stakeholders to curtail the theft of agricultural produce across Jamaica. It makes provision for the appointment of agricultural wardens to engage and assist farmers.

Mr. Green said that the Government does recognize that praedial larceny is a major deterrent to people investing in and venturing into agriculture, and is partnering with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to establish similar units to further bolster efforts to fight the scourge.

“We are building out praedial larceny units across the JCF, across various divisions. The plan is a specialized unit that is adequately resourced [to deal with] reports of praedial larceny,” he noted.

He said the Government is also working to address praedial larceny in the fisheries sector in relation to poaching of the country’s natural resources, pointing to the newly launched enforcement vessel “that we have already rolled out to help our fish sanctuaries protect those conservation areas”.

The acquisition of the vessel, which was funded through a US$165,000 grant from the World Bank, will allow the Government to better police the country’s shores as it works to support fishers and strengthen its enforcement efforts. The vessel will be used in a program that will impact illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices within the coastal areas.

In the meantime, the Agriculture Minister praised farmers for continuing to produce even with the challenges faced throughout the year, particularly the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Despite all the challenges, agriculture has not been doing badly. Even though we started off the year in good stead, COVID came and destroyed a number of our markets and our farmers had a tough time, but upon our intervention, our farmers went back out to plant,” he noted.

Minister Green said that despite the downturn in the economy in the July to September quarter, agriculture saw a two per cent increase.

“Our food production was up 28 per cent; condiment production was up 22 per cent; tuber production was up 21 per cent; and vegetable production was up 15 per cent. This speaks to the resilience of our farmers,” he noted.

He is imploring Jamaicans to “Grow what we eat, eat what we grow” in keeping with the Eat Jamaican campaign.

“The Eat Jamaican campaign has really focused our attention on food security and how we can provide for ourselves, reduce our import bill, and consume more locally. Our goal is to ensure that there is sufficient quantity of high-quality Jamaican foods that we have right here to consume in the local market and that can also serve the world,” he pointed out.

The exact number of arrests is not known year over year, but given that the government announced in January of 2016, that 133 persons had been arrested and charged for various offences by the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit (PLPU) in 2015, the increase does not seem to be exponential, and it is not clear whether praedial larceny is becoming more or less of a problem in Jamaica, or how many people are currently in prison for the offense.