Surging local and international demand for avocados has led to a crime wave in New Zealand.
The Guardian reports that since January, there have been close to 40 large-scale thefts from avocado orchards in the north island of New Zealand, with as many as 350 fruit stolen at a time.
It is suspected that many more thefts have gone unreported.
According to New Zealand Avocado in 2015 an additional 96,000 New Zealand households began purchasing avocados, and local growers have been unable to keep up with the surge in demand.
The recent thefts have taken place in the middle of the night only to get sold on road-side stalls, grocery stores or small-scale sushi, fruit and sandwich shops in Auckland.
New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular said the recent thefts were concerning, but a bumper season of locally-grown avocados should flood the New Zealand market in coming weeks, reducing the incentive for thieves.
“It’s an easy way to make a quick buck, but I don’t think we are dealing with a sophisticated or highly organised operation here, more opportunistic,” she told the Guardian.
It is reported that avocado farms in New Zealand are now protecting their crop, and many have installed automatic lights and alarm systems.