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Avocados.
Reuters/Mariana Bazo
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THE PITS

There is a band of avocado thieves on the loose in New Zealand

Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill

Reporter

Increased demand and a poor crop last year have driven up the price of avocados to  NZ$4-6 ($2.80-4.20) a piece in New Zealand. That’s led to a peculiar crime wave: avocado theft.

Some 40 large scale thefts have been reported by orchards in the country’s north island since January, with 350 pieces of fruit stolen in each heist. Local consumers should beware, Sergeant Aaron Fraser of Waihi told the Guardian. The illicit fruit will likely end up at roadside stands or small grocery stores, not the export market.

“They are unripe, some have been sprayed recently and they may still carry toxins on the skin. But with the prices so high at the moment, the potential for profit is a strong inducement for certain individuals,” Fraser told the Guardian.

Worldwide demand for avocados has risen steadily over the last two decades. While Mexico is the world’s largest producer and consumer of the fruit, other countries have gotten in on the market. Avocado production in New Zealand rose 98% from 2003 to 2013.

Food is often the most popular good for thieves to steal. Food and beverage is the most stolen type of cargo in the US and Mexico. Nut growers and processors in California have lost an estimated $10 million worth of product in the last eight months to organized theft. In New Zealand, meat is the most-stolen good.

Supply and demand will probably halt the spate of New Zealand avocado-nappings. A strong crop of avocados is expected to hit the market soon, lowering prices and the fruit’s attractiveness to thieves, New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular told the Guardian.

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