IN a stern warning to the community, the Taveuni Magistrates Court jailed a 52-year-old farmer caught stealing dalo, as crop theft becomes a major crime on the island.
Magistrate Ropate Cabealawa said the prevalence of dalo theft was alarming and jail terms needed to be imposed to act as a deterrent.
Island police confirmed they received about 120 reports of dalo theft in a month, an average of about four a day.
Increases in the number of reports run parallel to the rise in the price of dalo that currently fetches $2 a kilogram for the tausala variety. Twelve farmers appeared before the island court sitting yesterday.
The trend of theft largely involves farmers stealing from other farmers as stiff competition and rivalry in the root crop industry takes its toll. Prem Chand Sharma of Qarawalu pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny of dalo from his neighbor Shyam Sanjay on the 7th of October and the 8th of November this year.
Sergeant Lenaitasi Sautaki told the court on the 7th of October Mr Sanjay found parts of his dalo crop that he was ready to harvest had been stolen.
Mr Sautaki said Mr Sanjay reported the matter to police who patrolled the area but no one was caught.
On the 8th of November, on a surprise farm inspection, Mr Sanjay caught his neighbor red handed as he uprooted dalo.
Shyam said he stole because he wanted to get some money.
Before sentencing Shyam to seven months imprisonment Mr Cabealawa told him only the lazy steal.
He added the temptation of high dalo prices had forced Shyam to betray the trust his neignor placed in him.