Watch out for stolen fruit

Te Puke Times - - FRONT PAGE - By AMY DI­A­MOND news@tepuke­

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.

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