Watch out for stolen fruit
A spree of avocado thefts sweeping the Western Bay has a Paengaroa resident calling for the community to look out for stolen fruit.
Kelvin O’Hara is one of the latest victims targeted by the thieves and says if people stop buying the stolen avocados, the number of thefts would decrease.
He told the Te Puke Times that on September 20 “bins full” of avocados were stripped from his orchard at Paengaroa.
The offenders had entered Kelvin’s property through a neighbouring kiwifruit block and “cut their way through” fencing and sheltering to reach the trees. “But we are not the only ones,” he said.
Mr O’Hara said his neighbours had also been targeted and knew of others in the region who had been hit.
He said the community need to be aware of what’s going on and if they see avocados that look as though they might be stolen to not buy them and alert the police.
“This is a community responsibility and we need to keep an eye out for one another.
“If no one buys the fruit, then there is no market for it.”
A police media spokeswoman confirmed the burglary at Kelvin’s property and said police were making inquiries.
New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular agreed that the public needs to be aware of the produce they were purchasing. Ms Scoular said avocado thefts peaked when supply was low during June and July and had eased off.
However, she was aware thefts were still occurring in the Bay of Plenty and Northland.
Ms Scoular said avocado growers were encouraged to be extra vigilant and to report any thefts to the police.
She said the public needs to be aware of the avocados they are buying, and stolen fruit often had no stalks at all or were too long.
Ms Scoular said legitimately grown avocados should have a stalk three to five millimetres long.
“We really don’t want stolen avocados on the market,” she said.
In July Bay orchard owner Dianne Cheshire said she was feeling “wretched” after losing up to $5000 of crop in a series of repeated “hits” by thieves.
She had since put up security fences and cameras and did not enter the orchard without her staffy-cross Bruce and her cellphone, at the ready to call police.
At the time avocado growers said thefts were skyrocketing and they were the targets of organised gangs supplying a black market fuelled by high demand.
Avocado thefts on the increase in the Western Bay of Plenty.