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South African growers run at a loss as avocado theft surges

Edrean Ernst of Allesbeste spoke to The Herald on the subject of avocado theft and how this has become a growing problem in the past 10 years.

“In terms of the avocado industry we have seen a major surge in fruit theft in the last four years. We are also seeing it becoming increasingly more organised, with stolen fruit being washed, packed in boxes and transported to major fresh produce markets,” he explained.

According to an industry wide survey which was conducted in 2018 among avocado growers, about 83% of respondents indicated that theft was a problem. The survey estimated that the value of the stolen avocados is in the region of R24 million per year.

“It does not impact the farmers only, but also the rural economy as a whole and the community that relies on the industry for jobs,” Ernst added.

During a recent Agri Letaba quarterly meeting, Tzaneen police station commander, Brig Charles Masinamela indicated that it is hard for the police to arrest the perpetrators because most farmers do not report these crimes. He advised farmers to provide buyers with receipts. He said that when patrolling fruit sellers it would be easier to determine which hawkers are selling stolen fruit.

Hawkers who sell along the R71 road claim that they sell fruit bought from farmers. They say their produce also come from households that practice subsistence farming in the surrounding villages.

However, it is hard to determine if they are buying from legitimate producers, they say. “Having a receipt from a farmer from a village is a problem. Not all farmers provide receipts. We want the municipality to assist us by building proper stalls with permits on the R71. This is where our customers are,” the hawkers explained.

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