Farmers are fighting back in Spain after a spate of robberies in olive orchards which have seen hundreds of tons of ‘green gold’ stolen over the last few weeks.
Police believe organized gangs are specifically targeting orchards in the Extremadura region of Spain because a low crop season has pushed up prices for olives and olive oil.
There have been reports of vehicles crashing through barriers and fencing around orchards to get onto land, cutting down trees, looting whatever they can find, before escaping with thousands of euros worth of olives.
Spanish farming organization APAG Extremadura Asaja said there has been a wave of robberies in the countryside and farmers are helpless because of the looting.
During one recent robbery, a farm in the town of Navalvillar de Pela was targeted and approximately 30,000 kilos (66,000 Lbs.) of olives were stolen and ‘unimaginable damage’ was caused to the plantation.
Now, farmers are carrying out night-time patrols in some areas and are calling for extra support from the local authorities and Guardia Civil, the Spanish police.
“Because of this situation of helplessness and insecurity suffered by farmers in the area, they have mounted night surveillance patrols with the main goal of communicating and informing law enforcement of any irregularities,” said an Extremadura Asaja spokesperson in a press release.
Thieves are selling olives and “getting huge profits at the expense of farmers,” he added.
In another incident, Spanish police stopped and searched a suspicious vehicle in the Villafranca de los Barros area where they discovered it was loaded with olives with an estimated value of around €4,500 ($4,937). The driver was detained and arrested.
It has also been reported that because low stocks and higher prices in Spain, the thieves are also targeting stores of oil in a “smash and grab” style robbery where they break into warehouses and drain oil from stocks into their own containers before escaping.