|File: Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj|
“Praedial larceny poses a significant risk to economic, social and political stability," he said.
Speaking at the inauguration of the squad at Carlsen Field in Central Trinidad, the minister said it the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the People's Partnership.
"I have been appraised of the distress and hindrances faced by our farmers and farming families, and through this (praedial larceny) initiative…we have delivered on our manifesto promises of respect for agriculture and farmers while seeking to create sustainable livelihoods. This government is committed to creating a food secure nation,” he said.
Maharaj noted that praedial larceny accounts for losses of more than $321 million in the Caricom region. He said once the state effectively deals with the problem there would be a decrease in the $4 billion annual food importation bill.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, who also attended the event, said for too long farmers have suffered from the effects of this problem. He said it is time for it to end and pledged that "we'll make an example of thieves who believe that they can continue to get away with it."
Warner said Act 36 of 2000 allows the Commissioner of Police to precept as many rangers as necessary and the law is tough enough to deal with perpetrators with a $20,000 fine and up to four years in prison.
However he noted that no matter how many rangers are employed the problem won't go away completely unless people change their attitude and start showing respect for other people's property. "We must change our attitude or agriculture won't succeed," he said.
The MP for Caroni Central, People Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, called the launch of the squad a “transformative” day for the farming community in Trinidad & Tobago.