Stolen avocados sold on Facebook

By Nichola Murphy
Thursday, 24 August, 2017

The demand for avocados has increased dramatically in recent years and has led to thieves in New Zealand selling stolen avocados over social media. Avocados have become New Zealand’s third-largest fresh fruit export, which is not surprising considering the fruit’s healthy fat properties and its increasing use in dishes such as ‘smashed avo on toast’.

Both police and orchardists have become more vigilant in detecting this rising crime after multiple late-night raids have taken place on avocado farms on the upper North Island since July.

Sergeant Trevor Brown, Western Bay of Plenty Police, explained the impact these raids have had on the community to The Guardian.

“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 neighbour’s tree, we take it very seriously.”

Police suggested avocado thieves could be charged with burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Last year saw several cases of the fruit being stolen and sold on by means of roadside stalls; however, police have attempted to combat this by patrolling these stores in person. As a result, thieves have been forced to be more creative with their crime, with police reporting several cases in which they have resorted to using Facebook to sell the stolen avocados.

Jen Scoular, CEO of New Zealand Avocado, suggested this could be a positive outcome as it illustrates that the clampdown on avocado crimes has been successful so far and police are limiting the methods of distribution.

The thieves are not the only ones being penalised. Shop owners who knowingly and willingly purchase avocados that have not come from a reputable source risk being charged with receiving stolen property, which could see them spending up to seven years in prison. This attempts to discourage businesses or any intermediaries from selling the fruit and allowing New Zealand’s black market continue to grow.

“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.”

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