A Northland avocado grower says thieves have stripped his orchard of up to 70 per cent of the fruit - at a loss of about $100,000 - which is 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 a 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 he estimated to be 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."
Burgess had sold his Auckland-based office supply business two years ago and moved on to 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 9 so it's going to be tough."
Burgess 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 Burgess 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 by Burgess.
"I don't know where he was taking a shortcut to because this place is surrounded by paddocks."
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 offered for sale.
Burgess 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 on the orchard.
Police confirmed they had a complaint by Burgess that between July 1 and 4 avocados had been stolen. Officers went to the orchard on July 5.
Unfortunately, as there is no CCTV footage or witnesses, it has left police with limited lines of inquiry.
"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.
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, Whangārei 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.
Whangārei police Detective Sergeant Rob Huys said the man faced 10 charges of burglary and was jointly charged with the woman on a theft charge.
Thieves allegedly struck an avocado packhouse west of Whangārei late in September, taking nearly 600kg of high grade Haas avocados.
Two weeks earlier about 300kg of fruit was taken during a heist at the same property. The thefts came on the heels of 1000kg of mandarins being taken from a Kerikeri packhouse.
The bulk heist of roughly 10,000 mandarins was surprising given it followed three previous thefts from the same site, and the firm had just beefed up security.
Previous raids had netted ''truckloads'' of tomatoes and 29 crates of mandarins.