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Southern Africa: Avocados and macadamias targeted by criminal networks

According to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, organised-crime groups are muscling in on a share of the profits of southern Africa’s lucrative avocado and macadamia nut markets.

For people in South Africa’s farming sector, it may come as no surprise that black markets for macadamia nuts and avocados are booming. Both are premium crops. Macadamias are the most expensive nuts in the world, and price records continue to be broken year on year, reportedly reaching up to $25 a pound on international markets.

Avocados are commonly dubbed “green gold”, with worldwide demand pushing prices sky-high. In South Africa, avocado prices have reached R25 per fruit in February 2020 as pre-season demand outstrips supply.

The popularity of both crops has become something of a double-edged sword for the farming industry in southern Africa. Macadamia thefts have surged across the region in the past five years, as have avocado thefts, particularly in South Africa. Farming associations say it is increasingly becoming an organised crime, with syndicates dealing in stolen produce infiltrating the legitimate market.

February and March are a particularly vulnerable period for both avocado and macadamia theft in South Africa. Avocado thefts reportedly spike in the months preceding the harvesting season, as the unripe fruit appears ready to eat and prices are high due to pre-season scarcity. Macadamia thefts likewise rise as the harvesting season begins in March.

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