Beware of black market avocados
EC: Avocado Crime Wave Hits New Zealand
Credit: Photo by Brett Gundlock/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Criminals in New Zealand seem to have a thing for large-scale breakfast food robberies. First, it was bacon theft, and now, the country is confronting an avocado crime wave. According to a report from The Guardian, 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.” Thieves are then selling avocados on the black market, looking to make a quick buck. Jen Scoular, CEO of New Zealand Avocado, told Stuff that the thieves are brazen with the stolen goods: “They are selling it wherever they can. Someone has walked into a sushi shop with a crate full of early season avocados.”

The primary incentive for these avocado thieves is financial, since the price of avocados reached an all-time high in Australia this year, selling for as much as AUD$6 each, or about US$4.50. Plus, there is an avocado shortage in Australia right now, a reality that is not being helped by these robberies. Demand for avocado has also been increasing globally over the last couple of years. According to the Washington Post, in 2014, Americans consumed about 4.25 billion avocados, “more than double the amount consumed in 2005, and nearly four times as many sold in 2000.” And though that’s a lot of fruit, it turns out that Australians have the highest per capita consumption of avocados in the world, “at an annual 3.2 kilogrammes (kg), or about 15 fruits,” according to Reuters.

The lack of supply, in combination with the increased demand, make for an economic perfect storm–and skyrocketing avocado prices keep thieves interested in raiding farms.

This crime spree isn’t unique to New Zealand farms, though. California farmers have been experiencing their own spate of avocado robberies, and in 2011, lost about US$1 million worth of crop in a year. According to the California Avocado Commission, avocado theft is a continuing problem, with some thieves, “removing large quantities of the fruit, stealing utility carts and a skid steer.” Unfortunately for farmers, and avocado enthusiasts, as long as the prices stay high, it’s unlikely that the crime will end anytime soon.

By Maxine Builder and Maxine Builder