Cattle investigated before being shipped to Grenada
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January 29, 2013

Cattle investigated before being shipped to Grenada

A “big blunder” by a junior official at the Ministry of Agriculture resulted in a 20-hour delay on Sunday of a shipment of livestock valued at $150,000, destined for Grenada.{{more}}

“The lengthy delay was a cause of a junior veterinarian not following the proper procedures, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

There were initial fears that some of the animals might have been stolen, but investigations by state officials found that they were legitimately acquired and Grenadian Jude Jack was allowed to export the animals.

Jack, a wholesale purchaser of animals, on Thursday came to St Vincent to purchase a large quantity of livestock.

The livestock included 84 head of cattle, along with an undisclosed number of goats, sheep and pigs.

Jack, on arrival in St Vincent, met with the chief veterinarian within the Ministry of Agriculture and told her about his intentions.

A source within the Ministry of Agriculture told SEARCHLIGHT that the chief veterinarian then instructed three junior officials to accompany Jack to inspect the livestock.

Following the inspection, the junior veterinarian then signed a form without the knowledge of his superiors, giving consent for Jack to purchase the livestock that were to be shipped to Grenada on Sunday.

However, police and customs officials intercepted the shipment Saturday night causing the delay of MV Mary C that was already loaded with 13 head of cattle.

The shipment was halted due to speculation that the some of the livestock may have been acquired through praedial larceny.

Port Kingstown on Sunday morning was crowded with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, including Caesar, permanent secretary, Raymond Ryan, and acting deputy chief agricultural officer Lesley Grant, as investigation into the matter began.

Commissioner of Police Keith Miller, along with members of the Criminal Investigation Unit Rapid Response Unit, and Special Services Unit (SSU) were also present.

Caesar said that because of the large quantity of animals that were intended for export, the authorities became suspicious, hence the police were summoned.

“This is by far the largest quantity of livestock that was being exported from St Vincent to any other country.

“It appears that certain members of the Ministry of Agriculture are working at cross purposes, because the ministry should have informed the police about such a large movement of animals,” the minister added.

Caesar said “the proper procedure was not followed and no senior official within the Ministry of Agriculture was informed”.

The minister, who spent the entire 20 hours at Port Kingstown, where the boat, MV Mary C was docked, described the actions taken by those responsible as a “national embarrassment”.

Trucks travelling from the windward area with some of the cattle intended for shipment were also intercepted by police and the animals were confiscated.

Caesar also revealed that Grenada’s Minister of Agriculture Aaron Francois, contacted him about the matter, but was later relieved to know the situation was under control.

“We have to be careful to ensure that we do our diligence before animals are exported and not allow efficiency to be compromised for speed, because St Vincent and the Grenadines can become a black-listed country by an importing country if we do not follow the proper procedure in terms of inspecting the animals for diseases.

“For example, suppose an animal that is affected with a disease is shipped to another country because it was not properly inspected here? That can reflect negatively on us here and can be a barrier for future trade.

“These types of actions are not — and, I repeat, are not — and will not be accepted,” the agriculture minister stated.

Another concern expressed by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Raymond Ryan was the large quantity of livestock being exported at any single time.

Ryan explained that the shipment of cattle to Grenada constitutes 10 per cent of the local herd.

“It is our policy to ensure that our local market has enough beef, enough mutton to consume locally.

“It makes no sense, absolutely no sense, exporting animals when we will have to turn around later to import. So these matters will have to be dealt with at a policy level,” Ryan said.

The permanent secretary also said that he, along with other senior officials were not informed.

“It’s an unfortunate incident and we will deal with that within the ministry,” he added.

Caesar said an investigation is now being carried out within the ministry concerning the actions of the junior veterinarian and also how such information bypassed senior officials at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The MV Mary C finally left Port Kingstown at 4 a.m. yesterday with 84 head of cattle on board.

SEARCHLIGHT understands one animal died and another gave birth during the journey to Grenada.

The purchaser told SEARCHLIGHT that he was not worried because he knew he had followed the proper procedures.

“The authorities are just doing their jobs and I understand that. Something was done without top officials knowing and I have my receipts to show I purchased the animals from the farmers here.

“So, no worries; it’s just a little hold up and I completely understand. Protocols have to be followed,” he told SEARCHLIGHT on Sunday.