Since the beginning of 2016, nearly 40 large-scale avocado thefts have been alleged by orchards, with many more suspected to have gone unreported.
Thieves are stealing as many as 350 avocados at a time, selling them for $4-6 each on the black market.
The avocado shortage came amid a massive rise in the fruit’s popularity, and a poor growing season last year. Farmers have been unable to keep up with current demand.
During the 2015-2016 season, New Zealand broke its own record for domestic sales of the fruit, producing a whopping $41 million from the food staple.
"Five years ago the New Zealand market achieved between $15m and $20m annually, without ever getting much above that. This year’s return of $41m is 25 percent above last year’s return of $31.8m and shows year on year growth of 17 percent since 2011,” Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado, said in a statement in May.
The crime wave may not only be hurting the farmers and the avocado industry however, it may also be hurting consumers, Sergeant Aaron Fraser told the Guardian.
“These stolen avocados can carry risks,” he said. “They 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.”