The national avocado snatching crisis is being taken very seriously by NZ police

News 30/07/2017

Fruit and vegetable shop owners in the Western Bay of Plenty are being urged to keep an eye out for stolen avocados.

Police have warned it's not just the thieves that could be charged, but those receiving avocados as well - and the penalty can be harsh.

When avocado grower Maxine Graham took a walk through her orchard this week, she noticed something was missing.

"A tree that just had bare stalks everywhere," she says.

Thieves had stripped three of her trees, making off with more than 100 avocados.

"To come and find that somebody has just taken advantage of our hard work, it's absolutely gutting."

She's not the only grower in the Western Bay of Plenty who has been targeted. Police have received nine complaints since May.

"The price of the avocados is obviously an incentive for the thieves, and unfortunately they have outlets where they are being able to sell this stolen fruit," says Western Bay Police Sergeant Trevor Brown.

Those stealing the fruit could be jailed for up to 10 years, but those receiving it could also be sent to prison for up to seven.

"We're making investigations at the moment and if we can prove that they knew the fruit was stolen, they will be charged," says Sgt Brown.

Tauranga grocer David Stewart says he's contacted constantly by those trying to sell stolen produce.

"Once, twice a day easy, all the time - the telephone will ring. 'No thank you,' down it goes," he says.

But the avocados probably won't be that nice be eat.

"If the avocados are picked before they're mature they'll actually never ripen, so the consumer won't get a nice creamy avocado," says NZ Avocado CEO Jen Scoular.

Not only that, but they could be poisonous.

"All the sprays you put on have a withholding period," says Ms Graham.

"They don't know what's been put on that fruit and it could be jeopardising the health of the person that they on sell it to."

Shoppers are encouraged to keep an eye out as well. Avocados with no stalk or a long stalk are most likely stolen.