`Olive Oil Thefts Rising in Mills and Supermarkets Across Spain - Olive Oil Times

Olive Oil Thefts Rising in Mills and Supermarkets Across Spain

By Máté Pálfi
Sep. 18, 2023 15:23 UTC

Officials across Spain are strug­gling to address the grow­ing prob­lem of thefts of olives and olive oil from groves, mills and super­mar­kets.

The sim­mer­ing issue returned to the head­lines ear­lier this month after 50,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil, val­ued at €500,000, were report­edly stolen from a mill in Carcabuey, Córdoba, one of the largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing provinces of Andalusia.

In my 26 years in the indus­try, I have never seen this increase (in sales of anti-theft devices for olive oil bot­tles), and it may be that we have not yet reached the max­i­mum peak.- Salvador Cañones, man­ag­ing part­ner, STC

Ignacio Fernández de Mesa, the pres­i­dent of the Córdoba chap­ter of the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers (Asaja), called the olive oil theft in Carcabuey unfor­tu­nate” and said it was a dan­ger­ous” sit­u­a­tion.

He added that thefts would likely affect more mills and farms this year because the high price of olive oil was tempt­ing crim­i­nals.

See Also:Concerns Mount Over Olive Oil Shortage in Spain

After a rash of thefts in the pre­vi­ous crop year, Catalina Madueño, the gov­ern­men­t’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Jaén, said ris­ing olive oil prices and increased orga­nized crim­i­nal activ­ity in Andalusia were the main dri­vers of theft.

According to offi­cials, 260,000 kilo­grams of olives val­ued at €161,000 were stolen in Jaén, the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing province, in the 2022/23 crop year, a 28-per­cent increase com­pared to 2021/22.

Earlier, €82,881 worth of olives were stolen in 2021/22, a 40-per­cent increase com­pared to the pre­vi­ous har­vest. Officials said the rel­a­tive decrease in thefts between 2021/22 and 2022/23 resulted from the lower har­vest rather than improved secu­rity.

Olive oil thefts gen­er­ally occur when crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions break into mills at night to steal olive oil from stor­age tanks. Meanwhile, olive thefts hap­pen in the groves, with thieves steal­ing already har­vested olives await­ing trans­port to the mills or even tak­ing the time to har­vest the olives from the trees.

Anti-theft units from the Guardia Civil, a branch of the armed forces that acts in a polic­ing capac­ity, have stepped up efforts to deter thefts by increas­ing checks on vehi­cles trans­port­ing olives and olive oil.

If the vehi­cles do not have the appro­pri­ate doc­u­men­ta­tion indi­cat­ing the ori­gin of the olives, the fruit is con­fis­cated and destroyed to dis­cour­age theft. When author­i­ties inter­cept tanks of stolen oil, they attempt to return it to the right­ful owner.

Some agri­cul­tural and polit­i­cal bod­ies oppose the destruc­tion of stolen olives and would pre­fer to see them trans­formed into olive oil and donated to non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions.

Since the start of the year, there have been reports of thefts and arrests from Andalusia to Madrid.

At the begin­ning of the year, 42,300 kilo­grams of olives were stolen in two sep­a­rate episodes in Badajoz, Extremadura, the third-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region in the coun­try.

Then, in March, 16 peo­ple were arrested for steal­ing more than 17,500 kilo­grams of olives from farms in Madrid.

In May, a sig­nif­i­cant police oper­a­tion ended with the arrest of nine peo­ple sus­pected of steal­ing 34,000 kilo­grams of olives in Antequera, Málaga, with one of them sen­tenced to time in prison.

Furthermore, thefts have not been lim­ited to mills and groves. Rising prices of all cat­e­gories of olive oil across Spain have resulted in increased thefts from super­mar­kets, too.

According to Spain’s Consumer and User Organization, olive oil prices at retail in Spain have increased by up to 30 per­cent per liter since July. Extra vir­gin olive oil prices at retail have risen by 15.4 per­cent over the same period.

Salvador Cañones, the man­ag­ing part­ner of STC, a com­pany that man­u­fac­tures anti-rob­bery devices, said for every 20 per­cent increase in con­sumer goods price, theft attempts rise by a fac­tor of five.

Previously, the main type of olive oil stolen was from the gourmet cat­e­gory, but in the last month, we have received orders for pro­tec­tors for one-liter bot­tles and even three and five-liter jugs,” he told local media.

Cañones said a major super­mar­ket chain in Spain recently pur­chased 1,200 anti-rob­bery col­lars – typ­i­cally used on liquor bot­tles – for bot­tled olive oil.

In my 26 years in the indus­try, I have never seen this increase, and it may be that we have not yet reached the max­i­mum peak,” he said.


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