Yaqona theft, police sends out warning

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

Crimes committee president William Whippy said last week alone farmers stole 40 young plants valued at $3000 to $4000.

Mr Whippy said this week thieves made off with 100 two-year-old plants valued at around $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 setting 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.

“In the first incident 40 plants have been recovered and are with police while in the second case a suspect has been located while the yaqona is still to be established.”

Batinivuruwai yaqona farmer, Jonasa Matakibau said he had last seen the stolen yaqona plants still standing in his farm on Saturday over the last weekend.

Mr Matakibau said on Sunday morning the 100 plants were gone with two sacks of plant left by the roadside near his farm because thieves have had their fill.

“It is said 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 create awareness and patrols in our area.”

Meanwhile Divisional Police Commander Northern senior superintendent of police Eparama Waqa said he was aware of the case.

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.