Police in Trinidad have detained a local farmer for questioning, following allegations that he injected poison into a crop of more than 2,000 avocados as revenge against thieves who repeatedly have been raiding his production in recent years.
Once news about the development broke, Trinidadians immediately shied away from buying fruits from traditional vendors, a situation that left farmers with commercial bank and crop loans reeling as sales diminished. A few secured sales by assuring buyers that avocados on display had been imported from nearby St. Vincent and other Eastern Caribbean islands.
Police have since sent samples of the fruit to state testing labs and are awaiting results before asking the state prosecutor’s office to decide what charges should could be brought against the Tunapuna farmer if any, in what is shaping up to be a legal landmark case.
Local media houses say the farmer was so frustrated by thieves raiding his farm that he painstakingly injected more than 2,000 avocados with pesticides, causing a nation-wide scare and forcing the food production ministry to issue health advisories to the public on how to properly examine fruit before purchase.
“Praedial larceny continues to impact negatively on the agricultural sector,” the ministry said in a statement.
To address this problem the ministry this year upgraded its agricultural incentive program in the area of security.
“This will assist farmers by subsidizing security inputs that would better enable them to secure their holdings,” it said, adding that farmers “will get financial rebates of up to $5,000 for installing approved security systems,” while it worked with legal authorities to review and upgrade the Praedial Larceny Act to give authorities more clout to work with.
The minisry also sought to assure consumers that, once injected, dirt brown spots will appear on fruits, but buyers took no chances and vendors complained at markets across the island of not selling a single fruit since the scare in the past week.
The alleged tampering with the fruit is likely to deal efforts on the twin-island country to increase food production and reduce dependence on imports a serious blow for now, as locals might decide to play it safe by sourcing supplies from nearby islands instead of locally.