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Spain: Citrus fruit theft increases due to rising prices

The significantly higher prices recorded for mandarins and oranges compared to last year have resulted in an increase in theft, as reported by the Valencian Farmers Association (AVA-ASAJA) and the Provincial Federation of Farmers and Ranchers of Castellón (FEPAC-ASAJA); an area that is being especially hit these days by criminals specialised in the theft of crops. Nevertheless, both agrarian organizations stress that the thefts in citrus farms have become common in all the producing regions.

"The situation is becoming intolerable," regrets the president of AVA-ASAJA, Cristóbal Aguado, "and it is necessary for the security forces to redouble their efforts to tackle this scourge. We are going to request an urgent meeting with the Government delegate in the Region of Valencia, Juan Carlos Moragues, to address the issue, because we receive frequent complaints from the producers and it is necessary to act with force."

For his part, the president of FEPAC-ASAJA, Néstor Pascual, delved into the problem explaining that "this campaign we have considerably fewer kilos than last year, and if the little available production we have is stolen, it will be our ruin, because we will not even be able to cover the production costs."

The fact is that Valencian citrus fruits have become highly coveted by thieves this season, to the point that there are cases of theft in orchards of hernandinas, a mandarin variety which is ideally harvested between late December and early January. However, the stolen fruit is used for processing into juices through an intricate network of clandestine warehouses, which are in charge of distributing the stolen goods. In any case, crime in rural areas is also taking its toll on orange producers. In fact, a producer reported that even the truck he uses to work in the field had been stolen.

Cristóbal Aguado and Néstor Pascual agree in warning both about the seriousness of the problem and about the feeling of helplessness that is spreading in rural areas and the need to adopt special measures to combat it. The head of AVA-ASAJA requested "a much greater involvement from the municipalities, because the surveillance carried out in their respective areas is clearly inadequate."

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