Increased Demand for Avocados Inspires a Crime Wave in New Zealand

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New Zealand is in the midst of an avocado crisis. The Guardian reports that, after increased demand and a poor farm season started driving up prices, some opportunistic Kiwis began stealing unripe avocados from farms and selling them to grocery stores and restaurants in Auckland.

Since January alone, there have been at least 40 large-scale thefts from avocado orchards. The typical avocado heist is somewhat less complex—though no less nefarious—than the more traditional museum theft, casino heist, or bank robbery. Thieves usually sneak into the orchards under cover of darkness and simply rake or pick pears from the trees by the hundreds. After tiptoeing off with their bounty, the criminals quickly sell them off (so far, farmers haven’t thought to mark their avocados the way police sometimes mark bills).

Avocados are currently selling for NZ$4 to NZ$6 ($2 to $4 US) in New Zealand, facilitating a flourishing avocado black market. But officials say the crime wave will be short-lived. New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular tells The Guardian that a new crop of local avocados will soon flood the New Zealand market, making the heists less lucrative.

According to RadioNZ, the thefts may have had a significant impact on some farmers’ profits this season, with some farms losing up to a quarter of their crops. But Scoular also claims that the thieves, though frustrating, won’t pose a real threat to avocado farmers in New Zealand in the long run. “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 tells The Guardian. “This stolen fruit will only have made it to the local markets, it would never reach our export markets.”

[h/t The Guardian]