Thieves have sparked a crime wave in New Zealand targeting … avocados. There have been at least 40 large-scale thefts of avocados since January, with thieves stealing onto farms in the middle of the night, raking trees, and loading vehicles with the fruit to be sold at road-side stalls and grocery stores, reports the Guardian. Why all the fuss over a few hundred avocados? Well, they're selling for $3 to $5 each thanks to a poor growing season, increased demand at home, and the fact that many New Zealand growers focus on the export market, per the Telegraph.
Some farmers—who've had to install alarm systems and automatic lights—"have lost a quarter of their crop for the year," Avocado New Zealand CEO Jen Scouler tells Radio NZ. But the thefts aren't just a pain for growers. The fruit "are unripe, some have been sprayed recently, and they may still carry toxins on the skin," an officer says. "But with the prices so high at the moment, the potential for profit is a strong inducement for certain individuals." Relief, however, should be on the horizon. Scouler says fruit from a more successful season should be available within weeks, reducing prices and the urge to steal. (Read more New Zealand stories.)