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Free State Agriculture (FSA) warns farming communities to take the necessary precautions to protect their maize plantations from theft.
This follows after eight farming communities (Allanridge, Bothaville, Bultfontein, Koppies, Odendaalsrus, Vierfontein, Virginia and Welkom) have already been subjected to this type of crime. At Allanridge, Bultfontein and Virginia, arrests were made.
Jakkals le Roux, Chairman of FSA’s Rural Safety Committee, says that farmers are currently harvesting maize fields and the fact that maize is ripe for use makes it a sought-after commodity for criminals who operate in large groups, steal the maize and in town communities and or neighbourhoods sold. “Information indicates that up to 20 people, armed with pangas and knives, descend on maize plantations and strip maize from fields. The maize is placed in bags for bakkies to be transported to sales areas later. ”
Le Roux points out that this crime is accompanied by enormous financial losses for farming practices, not to mention the security risk it poses to farmers, their workers and even security guards who have to protect the fields and confront the thieves. “Maize theft as it occurs in the Free State is a highly organized crime run by groups and syndicates. It is not just a crime where people who are hungry take some maize from fields illegally. Outlets, markets and money that vary in trade are in question here.”
Meanwhile, Dr Jane Buys, Safety Risk Analyst at FSA, mentions that some of the farmers in the targeted areas have indicated that they pay up to R100 000 per month for security guards to look after their maize plantations and try to protect against the huge explosion of crime. Buys believes that these additional security costs, coupled with increased input costs, could definitely jeopardize food security.
Free State Agriculture has made an urgent request to the police at the highest level to take this type of crime with the necessary seriousness in the Free State. It is a seasonal crime that occurs annually and has a major negative impact on sustainable farming practices.
Police have been urged to align their crime prevention actions at the grassroots areas in the high crime areas with farming communities’ actions, in order to prevent, combat and effectively address the type of crime. Farmers are also urged to bring this to the attention of their local police as soon as they notice the type of crime for the necessary action.