NZ avocado shortage takes guacamole off menu at Mexican restaurants in country

Thieves plunder orchards to feed black market as price of avocados doubles to over HK$20 apiece - but crime wave will be short-lived, with new crop due in September

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 June, 2016, 11:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 June, 2016, 11:19am

New Zealand avocado growers have reported a spate of thefts after rising prices caused a seasonal shortage, leaving guacamole lovers choking on their dip.

Avocado prices have doubled in recent months, reaching NZ$6.00 (HK$23) each in some supermarkets, prompting a number of Mexican restaurants in Wellington to take guacamole off the menu.

'No peas in guacamole': Hong Kong Mexicans weigh in on NYT recipe row

Criminals have been quick to spot an opportunity, raiding avocado groves in the Bay of Plenty area on the North Island to meet black market demand.

See what they’re missing out on: Susan Jung's recipes for guacamole, chicken fajitas, tortillas, and salsa

NZ Avocado marketing manager Bevan Jelley said the thefts were large-scale and brazen.

“We have reports of people driving utes (pickup trucks) into orchards and filling up the entire back tray,” he told Fairfax New Zealand.

“Growers are finding blankets and duvets in their orchards with piles of avocados in them (where) thieves have picked and been interrupted.”

But local police sergeant Aaron Fraser said buyers should think twice before spreading stolen avocados on their toast. “They are unripe, some have been sprayed recently and they may still carry toxins on the skin,” he said.

NZ Avocado was not immediately available for comment but an industry source said the crime wave was set to be short-lived, with a new crop due in September-October.

“Then we can all turn ourselves green eating guacamole,” she said.