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Avocado shortage sparks strange crime wave in New Zealand

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NEW ZEALAND — After the price of avocados reached a record high in New Zealand earlier this year, thieves are trying to capitalize on the ongoing shortage.

Growing international demand and 2015’s poor crop are believed to be behind the rash of avocado heists. There have already been roughly 40 “large-scale thefts” in 2016, mostly from orchards located on New Zealand’s North Island, according to The Guardian.

The bandits usually strike at night, raking as much fruit out of the trees as they can carry, then selling it at a markup to local vendors and restaurants.

“These stolen avocados can carry risks,” Sergeant Aaron Fraser told the paper. “The are unripe, some have been sprayed recently and they may still carry toxins on the skin. But with the prices so high at the moment, the potential for profit is a strong inducement for certain individuals.”

The key ingredient for guacamole is currently going for between $3 and $4 a piece now, but that price was as high as $7 earlier this year.

Some farms have taken security measures to protect their crops, like installing automatic lights and alarm systems.

But there is optimism in the industry — barring a weather disaster, the avocado crime wave will likely end with the pending harvest, which is expected to be a bountiful one, according to New Zealand Avocado CEO Jen Scoular.