New Zealand's Avocado Crime Wave Returns as Thieves Turn to Social Media
NEW ZEALAND – With a new season of product comes new opportunities for produce thieves to flex their innovative muscles of crime, or so it seems in New Zealand. The country’s avocado crime wave has returned to plague officials, this time with a social media twist.
As we previously reported, New Zealand made headlines last year when the “avocado crime wave” was born. Sparked from high market prices and even higher demand, thieves are again looking to tap in on black market cash by performing dozens of nighttime raids on avocado orchards across the country.
This year, officials told the Irish Times that the crime wave has escalated since last. In addition, thieves are now turning to Facebook as the medium for selling the stolen green goods rather than last year's method of taking the purloined fruit to small shops or pop-up fruit stalls.
The latest span of avocado pilfering began this July. Growers, understandably incensed at the transgressions, have decided to take matters into their own hands this year with some chasing spotted criminals across their property. The thieves have been reported as raking the crop from the trees, or collecting fallen goods in blankets and sleeping bags before whisking them away.
“Orchardists have been a lot more vigilant because of last year,” said Sgt. Trevor Brown of Western Bay of Plenty. “We are seeing thefts on a commercial scale. We are seeing thousands of dollars of fruit stolen in a single hit and people’s livelihoods are getting ruined…it is not like just stealing a couple of mandarins off your neighbours tree; we take it very seriously.”
However, as the thieves have upped their ante this year, so have officials. As police have begun patrolling fruit shops in-person this year and inquiring on sales and suppliers, officials have received multiple reports that thieves are now using Facebook to push the goods, with some who "may look more respectable" posing as orchard owners, as well.
“From a positive perspective the criminals might be taking to social media because the ability to drive up to a road-side stall and sell a crate of avocados on the sly for $50 has got harder this season,” said Jen Scoular, CEO of New Zealand Avocado.
Experts noted that incentive for the continuing crime wave has been strong, as off-season avocado prices peaked at NZ $7.50 (USD $5.46) with demand remaining high through the country. Irish Times noted that the country’s growth in the category has also increased over the years, from NZ $70 million in 2013 (about USD $50 million) to NZ $198 million (about USD $144 million) this year. The country also reported its highest-ever value this year, with a record number of 7.7 million avocado trays produced.
New Zealand’s avocado runs from August to March, with the country utilizing no avocado imports. New Zealand does export its goods to countries throughout the globe, making the category its third largest fresh fruit export.
With no proverbial dam to this floodgate of thefts, no word has been released on how officials are planning to circumvent these avo bandits’ use of Facebook to pursue their enterprise.