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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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Residents who have turned to backyard farming due to challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic are now grappling with yet another setback.

Thieves are said to be wreaking havoc in the undulating agricultural fields stealing crops, fertilisers and other items in the dead of night.

Hailey Cross, who lives in George’s Hill, is the latest victim of praedial larceny.

“I got my seedlings and my vegetables just started to shoot out and someone came into my yard and took them all,” she told Observer.

But Cross is not the only one suffering at the hands of crooks. Several farmers, according to police public relations officer Inspector Frankie Thomas, have been reporting theft of their produce.

“We’ve seen a fair share of these reports,” Thomas said, “and we’ve also successfully arrested and prosecuted persons for the offence.”

While the theft of agricultural produce is nothing new, Thomas said reports have become all the more prevalent since the coronavirus outbreak.

Owolabi Elabanjo, senior extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, said he is not surprised by the surge.

“There are a lot of people out there, because of the situation in the country, they will be engaged in things like that. People are not working; they need money and steal your stuff to sell them at cheap prices,” he said.

Elabanjo said he has had several complaints from farmers around the island that people are stealing their crops. “People have told me that their pumpkins go missing from their yard,” he said.

To curtail the problem, Elabanjo is urging residents to become their neighbour’s keeper. “People are to be very vigilant. Neighbours are to look out for neighbours,” he said.

Residents can also play a part by not buying agricultural produce from all and sundry just because it is being sold at a cheap rate.

“They might tell you it is one dollar per pound. Just realise that they didn’t grow it and do not buy it. If they continue to have a market, they don’t stop stealing people’s crops,” Elabanjo added.

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