A Northland avocado grower says thieves have stripped his orchard of up to 70 per cent of the fruit, which was pointless as it is months away from being ready to harvest.
Graeme Burgess, of Kaikohe, said over three weeks the thieves had gone on to his orchard under the cover of darkness and raided the bulk of the 550 trees on his Mid North property.
The 75 year old said the orchard was his sole source of income and he was going to be in financial difficulty following the theft which he estimated to cost him about $100,000.
"It's ridiculous — the fruit is far from being ready and won't even ripen or get anywhere close to being able to be eaten (now that it has been picked)."
Mr Burgess sold his Auckland-based office supply business two years ago and moved onto the orchard.
The first season was successful with plenty of Haas fruit but this year there was not as much.
That had been compounded by the thefts.
"I've got three kids to look after and support with the youngest aged nine so it's going to be tough," Mr Burgess said.
He reported the theft to police about two weeks ago and officers had visited the orchard, but did not have much to go on in terms of linking offenders to the scene.
Since then he had made moves to get security cameras installed.
He had stopped one young man walking through the property who said he was taking a shortcut when questioned.
"I don't know where he was taking a short cut to because this place is surrounded by paddocks."
Mr Burgess said trees near the house had not been raided and his wife sold that fruit at the local night market in Kaikohe during the week.
She had also sold feijoas when they were in season.
The stolen fruit was thought to have been taken to Auckland and sold.
He said the trees were about 20 years old and very mature and dense providing plenty of shelter for thieves, who would have gone across paddocks to access the various blocks.
Police confirmed they had a complaint that between July 1 and July 4 avocados had been stolen. Officers went to the orchard on July 5.
As there is no CCTV footage or witnesses, it has left police with limited lines of enquiry.
"We provided the victim with some prevention advice to help protect his avocado trees," an officer said.
Anyone with information on this matter should contact Kaikohe Police on 09 405 2960.
Avocados have been picked with the stalks attached — here Graham is showing where the fruit has been taken.
He said normally thieves leave the stalks behind — professional pickers cut the stalk at the time of picking just above the fruit — so the fact that they have taken the whole stalk with the fruit means they have done this before and are selling them.
The theft appears to be isolated to the Mid North, with other growers in Te Hiku not experiencing problems.
Alan Kerr from King Avocado said their had not been any problems on its 160ha orchard on Te Aupouri peninsula.
"We have 600 acres so it's a little hard to tell.
"To our knowledge we haven't lost any fruit."
In 2010 two South Aucklanders believed to be responsible for the theft of thousands of dollars worth of fruit from Northland were arrested.
Police from Kerikeri, Whangarei and Auckland worked together since the thefts first began in September 2010 and their efforts culminated with the arrests of a 35-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman, both from Mangere.