Sri Lanka spice theft seen as organized crime

Nov 12, 2011 (LBO) – Theft on spice plantations in Sri Lanka has become a major problem and amounts to ‘organised robbery’, Sarada de Silva, head of a Sri Lankan grouping representing the spice industry said.

One plantation company which had nurtured a large extent of cinnamon, the island’s main spice, found their first crop had been robbed.

“They found tractor loads of cinnamon robbed,” de Silva said. “We need to improve law and order.

“The laws for theft and robbery are archaic and penalties need to be revised. It should be made a non-bailable offence over a certain amount of value. The fine should be raised to at least 10 times the value of the crops stolen,” he said. It is a major drawback for smallholders and growers to increase their cultivation and production, he told the Spice Council’s annual general meeting recently.

De Silva called for tougher law enforcement and stiffer penalties which are now only 500 rupees for theft of spices which fetch 1,000 – 2,000 rupees a kilo.

“Thefts on spice plantations is now a major problem,” he said. “It is not petty small theft in villages. It is organised robbery. They not only rob the crops but destroy vines and trees.