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Cattle passports to thwart praedial thieves

Government allocates $7 million for Praedial Larceny Unit

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014    

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MINISTER of Agri-culture and Fisheries Roger Clarke yesterday announced plans for a new programme to tag animals and issue them passports, backed up by police prevention support, as the latest effort to break the back of praedial larceny.

"This is not a gimmick," Clarke said in his budget presentation in the House of Representatives, as he announced plans for the

new national animal identification and traceability system (NAITS).

"We have already developed the relevant database and are in the procurement process for the tags, which will arrive in time to facilitate the commencement of tagging in the second quarter of this year," the minister added.

He said that under the new programme every head of cattle will be tagged and issued a passport. The passport will contain critical information about the animal and will be mandatory for movement of all animals. "Concomitant with this is the development of a DNA database of all tagged animals," Clarke said.

The minister also gave credit to the previous administration for the concept of tagging and keeping a database, referring to Opposition spokesman JC Hutchinson as the "conceptualiser" and himself as the "implementer". However, the idea really began under the stewardship of former minister of agriculture and fisheries, Dr Christopher Tufton, while Hutchinson was minister of state in the ministry.

Both Hutchinson and Tufton told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that while they were glad to see that the current Government had carried forward their suggestion, they were unsure how far Clarke was prepared to go. For example, whether chips would be implanted in the animals and produce; and how far the DNA process would go.

"If he is only going to tag the ears of the animals, that is not going far enough because all the praedial thieves will do is to cut off the ear with the tag," Hutchinson said.

Efforts to get Clarke by telephone to clarify whether the new system would involve the use of a chip failed. A ministry paper tabled by him in the House of Representatives said that his ministry has developed a four-pronged framework for addressing praedial larceny traceability; enforcement and compliance; legislation; and institutional arrangement.

It said that the ministry had contracted a consulting firm to implement NAITS for cattle in Jamaica.

"The consultancy follows previous works done in 2009 and 2010 to develop a system for cattle. The current focus is on cattle and pigs. However, the prototype developed will be applicable to other species of farm animals," the ministry paper stated.

It said that a new praedial larceny software has been developed by a group of fellows under the Code for the Caribbean Fellowship Programme, which will assist police officers in confirming information provided by persons found with agricultural produce during routine stop-and-search operations.

"With this application, law enforcers will be able to send text messages to an automated system to determine whether agricultural produce was purchased from farmers registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and Jamaica Agricultural Society," the ministry paper said.

It also stated that the Ministry of Finance and Planning has granted budgetary support of $7 million for the institution of a Praedial Larceny Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, effective April 1, 2014.

The unit will be headed by a praedial larceny coordinator and will now have the requisite administrative and budgetary support it needed. The remit of the coordinator will be to coordinate anti-praedial larceny initiatives, including strategic planning and coordination of operations with stakeholders, which may lead to the cessation of farm theft, prosecution and arrest of perpetrators.

Approval has been sought from the Cabinet Office to have the posts classified and added to the ministry's establishment. It is expected that the coordinator and support staff will be engaged before the end of the first quarter of the 2014/2015 financial year.

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