Rising Prices Contribute to Spike in Olive Thefts in Jaén

The increase in thefts, which mainly involve criminal organizations stealing harvested olives from the field or the mills, was largely attributed to rising prices.
May. 16, 2022
Ephantus Mukundi

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Olive thefts in the Jaén, the largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region on Earth, increased by 40 per­cent dur­ing the 2021/22 crop year com­pared to the pre­vi­ous har­vest.

During the cur­rency crop year, 203,961 kilo­grams of olives were stolen, com­pared with the 121,137 kilo­grams stolen in the same period last year.

The price of olive oil this sea­son has far exceeded €3.50 per kilo­gram, which is why olives have become a highly cov­eted prod­uct for thieves.- Catalina Madueño , sub-del­e­gate of Spanish gov­ern­ment in Jaén

Speaking about the crime, Catalina Madueño, the sub-del­e­gate of the gov­ern­ment of Spain in Jaén, said the increase in the theft was linked to bet­ter prices for olive oil expe­ri­enced in recent months.

According to Madueño, 47,000 kilo­grams rep­re­sent­ing 23 per­cent of the 203,961 kilo­grams, were recov­ered by the anti-theft unit of the Civil Guard, one of Spain’s two fed­eral police forces.
Madueño said that two orga­nized gangs had been dis­man­tled, which led to the recov­ery of some of the stolen olives.

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The price of olive oil this sea­son has far exceeded €3.50 per kilo­gram, which is why olives have become a highly cov­eted prod­uct for thieves,” she said, adding that there has been an increase in orga­nized gang rob­beries in the coun­try­side this year.

This year, with oil prices well above those in pre­vi­ous years, this prod­uct has once again become highly cov­eted,” Madueño said. When olive oil prices are high, it has a call effect’ on spe­cial­ized crim­i­nals.”

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In November, the Civil Guard deployed 1,050 extra police to patrol the coun­try­side and deter crim­i­nals, with agents remain­ing in the fields and mills until the end of March.

Olive theft is a com­mon prob­lem in Spain dur­ing the har­vest sea­son. However, the num­ber of thefts spikes when olive prices go up.

During the 2015/16 crop year, inci­dences of theft in Jaén increased to 275, with 560 tons stolen when the price hit €3.10.

According to Francisco José Lozano, the head of the Civil Guard in Jaén, this kind of theft hap­pens because there is a ready mar­ket for the stolen pro­duce. He added that inves­ti­ga­tions show oil mills that buy the stolen olives are not in Jaén.

Criminal gangs steal olives at dif­fer­ent stages dur­ing the har­vest period. However, most of these inci­dences hap­pen imme­di­ately after the fruits are picked but before they are trans­ported to oil mills.

During the 2021/22 crop year, 37 per­cent of olives were stolen when the fruits were already stored in bags or trail­ers await­ing deliv­ery to the mills.

Lozano said that the main des­ti­na­tion of stolen olive is the province of Granada. Here, the crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions attempt to pass the olives off as locally grown.

However, he added there is always a dis­crep­ancy between the num­ber of olives received and their pos­si­ble ori­gin, which make it easy to detect the theft.



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