November 23, 2007
New bill passed to deal with praedial larceny

The Agricultural Produce and Livestock (Prevention of Theft) Act is being hailed as historic by Agriculture Minister Montgomery Daniel.{{more}}

During the debate, before the bill was passed unanimously into law, Minister Daniel said that lifestock production has become a nightmare in this country because of praedial larceny.

“Farmers are not getting a return for their investment,” Daniel said.

This view was reinforced by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. “It is very disheartening to see even the very small farmers losing their produce to thieves,” Eustace said.

He said that anything to protect the farmers of the country is very important, despite the decline in the industry on a whole.

Eustace lamented that while agriculture used to account for up to 20 percent of this country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), this number has now fallen to eight or nine per cent.

He however was quick to say, that even if this is so, the sector still needed the legislators’ support.

Under the new law, provision is made for the appointment of rural constables who would be empowered to keep an eye out for the thieves. They also have the authority to stop and search vehicles once they suspect praedial larceny, and investigate such instances in the villages.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that for starters, he has budgeted for 20 such officers to be appointed. He said that because they are from the communities, they will have the advantage of knowing who the thieves in the village are, and have a general advantage when investigating those occurrences. He told the House that he plans to increase the number of rural police officers yearly.

The new legislation also stipulates that there be no trading in agricultural produce or livestock outside of the hours 5 a.m- 7 p.m.

An interesting aspect of the penalties set aside for praedial larceny in this Act, is that of police supervision, where a person can be sentenced to one year under police supervision, during which his movements are restricted, preventing him from leaving home between 7p.m. and 6 a.m. next morning. Such an order can be issued by a magistrate.

Traders in agricultural produce and livestock are also required to register with the Ministry of Agriculture and would be issued a certificate. A key component of the new law requires that a receipt, with detailed description of what has been sold to a buyer be issued for sales over the value of $50 or five kilograms or more, in either livestock or agricultural produce.

A person found with this value of livestock or produce will be required to show a proof of purchase.

Dr Gonsalves made it clear that the new legislation does not change the laws concerning theft already on the law books, but rather assist in the detection of the offence.(KJ)