Anse Royale farmers badly hit by thieves


21-July-2012

Mr Geffroy showing the Nation journalist an entire bed of green chilli plants uprooted a few nights ago

They claim they are discouraged from growing food as none of the agencies appears to be taking the issue of stealing from them seriously.

One of the farmers, Jean-Paul Geffroy, yesterday showed Nation an entire bed of green chilli plants uprooted a few nights ago. Some of the plants are still strewn around. Altogther some 250 chilli plants have been uprooted, prior to any harvest.

“They not only steal, but vandalise as well, as whatever they can’t take with them is just destroyed,” said a distraught Mr Geffroy.

He said that recently thieves have also been stealing other vegetables including eggplant, cucumber and tomatoes by the bagful in the dead of night.

Mr Geffroy said that his brother, Jose Pool, and other vegetable growers have also suffered seriously from the bandits.

Altogether there are five vegetable growers on the Anse Royale plateau, each cultivating around four hectares (10 acres).

They are known to be selling their products at very reasonable prices, either at stalls by the roadside or elsewhere.
The growers strongly believe that some people would not be stealing on that scale unless they are assured of a ready market by some dishonest middlemen.

“Why buy from known thieves and encourage them to continue stealing?” Mr Geffroy asked angrily.
He said that in very few instances, culprits have been apprehended, but it has been a complicated process bringing them to justice.

In one instance, summons was served on him to appear as a witness in court, but the accused failed to show up for the hearing and nothing further appears to have been done so far.

Recently, during a visit to Val d’Andorre by the Minister of Natural Resources and Industry, farmers from that area also complained that much of their produce, including bananas and pineapples, were being trucked away before harvest.
Mr Geffroy notes that growing vegetables is hard work - seven days a week. They go to a lot of expense, starting from clearing the ground, planting the seeds, transplanting, watering and generally nurturing the crops until these can be harvested.

He adds that purchase of fertilisers and pesticides, as well as other accessories, such as shade cloth and water storage requires considerable investment.

Mr Geffroy employs 25 workmen – of whom 14 Indians -- on his farm. He says they are all well paid and even enjoy free lunch on working days. The workers are also given free vegetables to take home.

Last November, all the vegetable gardens at Anse Royale were flooded after abnormally heavy rains and all the crops were lost.

Though the issue of insurance cover for farmers to protect them against such hazards have been raised on several occasions with the authorities, notably the Ministry of Natural Resources, there is still no follow-up some years later.

On every occasion a natural disaster strikes, the dedicated farmers who have the task of feeding the country, are left high and dry, he remarked.

Even after they muster the courage to take the hoe and start all over again, the thieves are on the lurk -- ready to prey on them again.

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