Thieves strike again

Wainunu farmers at the site of the missing yaqona plants at their farm in Bua. Picture: SUPPLIED

AFTER lying dormant for almost a year, yaqona thieves have hit farms in Batinivuruwai, Wainunu in Bua Province again, making away with plants valued in the thousands, creating fear among farmers.

Batinivuruwai crime committee president William Whippy said last week alone 40 young plants valued at $3000 to $4000 were stolen. Mr Whippy said this week, thieves allegedly made off with 100 two-year-old plants valued about $10,000 to $20,000.

“The trend is worrying because the last time it happened last year, police had to step in and conduct an operation in the area,” he said.

“With the festive season settling in, I think it is high time that police return and create awareness or just patrol the area once a week at least because police presence is a big deterrence to these thieves.”

Police have confirmed that in the first incident involving the 40 plants, the plants have been recovered, while in the second case a suspect has been located while the yaqona is yet to be recovered.

Batinivuruwai yaqona farmer Jonasa Matakibau said he had last seen his yaqona plants on his farm on Saturday.

Mr Matakibau said on Sunday morning, the 100 plants were gone with two sacks of plants left by the roadside near his farm.

“It is sad because these plants are there for a reason and we have been sweating to grow it for specific reasons, mostly for our betterment,” he said. “We are seeking assistance from police if they could hold awareness and patrols in our area.”

Meanwhile, northern divisional police commander Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Eparama Waqa said he was aware of the cases.

SSP Waqa considered the request for patrols and awareness from farmers, saying they would attend to them this week.

“We are sending a stern warning to perpetrators to refrain from stealing from our farmers because we will not spare those caught committing the crime,” he said.

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