By Machela Osagboro
Farmers will be able to import CCTV cameras duty-free under new government plans aimed at reducing widespread theft of livestock and produce.
The moves were unveiled last week in a bid to help farmers, some of whom are being forced out of business.
“Praedial larceny is rampant and that has put a lot of our livestock farmers out of business. A lot of coconut is being stolen from people’s farms and being sold on the open market for $5. I know a farmer whose jelly is being stolen almost every other day,” Owolabi Elabanjo, senior extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, told Observer.
A concerned Elabanjo said farmers were already struggling due to low food production, on account of drought and other factors, and constant theft was exacerbating their problems.
Minister of Information Melford Nicholas addressed the issue in the post-Cabinet press briefing last Thursday. He said allowing farmers to bring in duty-free cameras would help them “detect and identify” thieves, and boost food security at the same time.
Elabanjo said, “We encourage them to install solar-powered cameras with lights on their farms … And some of these cameras you can install them and have them on your phone, so you may be at home and you can go through to check on your farm to see what is happening.” Elabanjo said the idea had already been well received by farmers.
The extension officer urged members of the public not to buy produce they suspect might be stolen.
This would deter would-be thieves “because they would know that there is no market to sell it”.
“The practice causes a double cost for the farmers because the thieves damage their property,” Elabanjo said.
He continued that livestock theft poses a danger to consumers too because farmers may have used antibiotics and other drugs to treat their animals.
“Now you don’t know, you just buy it, cook it and in another six months you start to have problem,” he warned.
Minister Nicholas also revealed plans to slash the cost of water to farmers.
“The Minister of Agriculture indicated that farmers wanted a cheap source of water and the government has mandated Antigua Public Utilities Authority to work along with the Ministry of Agriculture to reduce the cost of water for farm production by about 25 percent,” he said. “As more and more of these desalination plants come on stream later this year, the government is making a concerted effort to ensure that there is a subsidised supply of water for farmers because we must increase farm production,” Nicholas added.