Avocado Thieves Strike in Southern California
SAN DIEGO, CA - As Californians continue to hunger for avocados, the black market is recognizing the value of the high-trending fruit.
Growers have reported a spike in thefts of their trees, with news source CW6 San Diego noting thousands of pounds being nabbed in the region.
“San Diego County is the largest producer of avocados in the state, and because the fruit is valuable, it can become the target of theft,” said Eric Larson, Executive Director at the San Diego County Farm Bureau, according to the report. Larson told the news source that, on an average year, 20,000 avocados are stolen from San Diego growers. The most he’s seen in a year was 80,000, but did not say when this was.
“A lot are small growers, not corporate; small family farms, so these losses can be devastating,” Larson continued as far as the more frequent victims.
The report listed third-generation California grower Mike Hillebrecht’s, who witnessed the struggle for himself when his own 17 acres saw $3,000 worth of avocados pulled from their branches in the night a few years ago.
“It happened late fall, the fruit wasn’t even close to being ripe, and 3,000 pounds were stolen,” Hillebrecht said. Fortunately for his story, two of the men were caught and charged with felonies.
I checked in with the California Avocado Commission on the issue.
“There are no recent reports of theft, but it continues to be an ongoing issue for our growers,” Jan DeLyser, Vice President of Marketing for the California Avocado Commission, shared with me.
Some growers have bumped up protection with anything from better fencing to video surveillance, and the local sheriff’s department patrols more during harvest.
But, as consumers continue to call for avocados, it seems growers best keep an eye on the trees–there’s no industry honor amongst thieves.