In Australia and New Zealand massive fires and heavy rains wiped out avocado crops, causing a shortage of the delicious fruit.
The recent thefts have taken place in the middle of the night, with the crop either “raked” from the tree and collected in blankets or sheets on the ground, or hand-picked and driven away to pop-up road-side stalls, grocery stores or small-scale sushi, fruit and sandwich shops.
— Brian Hurst (@hurstb) February 3, 2016
Last month a 200g avocado cost $4.48 on average, compared to $1.64 in May 2015.
Over Queen’s Birthday weekend about 350 avocados were stolen from an orchard on Capamagian Dr in the Athenree area.
Waihi police Sergeant Aaron Fraser said police have one suspect in mind.
“There is someone making a living of stealing avocados and selling them on to the black market.”
“Anything that is going to make them money, they are going to hook on to.”
Police believe the culprit went into the orchard in darkness and spent hours plucking fruit from the trees.
“They must have spent a few hours there taking fruit off the trees, loading them into his own car. We are not sure if he parked the car down the driveway or kept it on the side of the orchard.”
“We believe it’s a man who resides in the eastern Waikato area, in relation to these ones [thefts], but it does happen all over the show.”
He was likely on-selling the fruit to markets or smaller stores and dairies in the area, Fraser said.
“He turns up with a few crate loads of avocados, they probably think he’s an orchardist.”
The CEO of New Zealand Avocado, Jen Scoular, assured the public that the current growing season has proven to be a bumper one for farmers, and with newly harvested fruit entering the market in the coming weeks, she expects the street value of black market avocados to plummet.
“It’s an easy way to make a quick buck, but I don’t think we are dealing with a sophisticated or highly organized operation here, more opportunistic,” she told The Guardian.