- Thieves are stealing avocados from orchards across New Zealand.
- Some small business owners are buying the stolen goods and re-selling them.
- If caught, the crimes carry 10 and seven years in jail, respectively.
- Police have already made arrests.
- The average price for a 200g avocado is $NZ5.06 ($AU4.59).
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New Zealand police are reporting increased levels of avocado burglary crimes.
Business Insider first heard about the problem in June, when a local man was jailed for three years for robbing an avocado orchard in Gisborne on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
The following month, police reported a number of avocado thefts in the Bay of Plenty region also on the North Island — the main growing region for avocado in New Zealand.
Between May and the end of July, police received nine reports of thefts in that area alone.
Arrests have also been made.
An organised crime ring which included a receiver purchasing avocados from burglary offenders was recently busted, with three people due to appear in Tauranga District Court over August and September.
Police have also discovered that small business owners were turning a blind eye and on-selling stolen avocados.
“By purchasing and on-selling these stolen avocados, you are encouraging these thefts to continue,” Sergeant Trevor Brown of Western Bay of Plenty Police said.
Police have since been visiting fruit and vegetable stores to educate owners on the consequences.
Avocado thieves can potentially be charged with burglary, which has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Meanwhile, if a shop owner knowingly purchases stolen avocados, they could potentially be charged with receiving stolen property, which carries a maximum imprisonment of seven years.
“I urge you to ask the hard questions, if you don’t purchase from doubtful sources, these commercial thefts will stop,” Brown said.
“Support orchardists, your fellow business owners, and don’t purchase these stolen fruit. If we work together, we can combat this issue.”
According to the NZ Avocado Growers’ Association Inc, the New Zealand avocado market set a record for per tray returns to the grower in the 2017-18 season, returning $44.3 million.
That came despite growers producing only 51% on the volumes of the previous year at 4.1 million trays.
In May, the average price for a 200g avocado rose to $NZ5.06 ($AU4.59), up 37% from $NZ3.69 in April 2018 and up 50% from $NZ3.38 in May 2017.
That’s the highest ever price since Stats NZ began recording the data.
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