Tomatoes, cherries, artichokes and oranges are part of the tasty loot attracting a new breed of fruit and vegetable thieves in Spain. Police are setting up roadblocks and patrolling farmlands on horseback in an effort to stamp out the lucrative looting.
Crops are the new currency in increasingly debt ridden Spain. Ta Nea reports that whilst pensioners and the young unemployed may pilfer to meet their own needs, there is a lucrative market in stolen food being sold on at markets.
In a turn of events reminiscent of post-Hoxha Albania, when gun wielding peasants would sit guard over their vegetable plots at night to ward off lettuce and cabbage bandits, Spanish farmers are starting their own nighttime patrols.
According to Huffington Post last year 20,000 thefts were reported at Spanish farms. Over the last five months over two tons of oranges and artichokes were stolen from a farm near Barcelona. The Civil Guard said roadblocks have been used to seal off whole villages in the search for pilfered pears.
Estrella Larrazabal, spokesperson for Asaja, a farm association, said that although there has always been a small amount of loss "the increase that has taken place since the crisis started a few years ago has been spectacular. Thieves take anything they can get their hands on."
Thefts are not random either, as thieves strike when the market price is high, taking advantage of costly cherries or lucrative lemons.