In Spain, a growing problem of olive oil thefts is causing concern for officials across the country. The issue has recently made headlines after a mill in Carcabuey, Córdoba reported the theft of 50,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil, valued at €500,000. This increase in thefts is attributed to the high price of olive oil, which has become tempting for criminals. The thefts occur both in mills at night and in groves, where thieves steal harvested olives and even take the time to harvest olives from the trees. Efforts to deter thefts have been stepped up, with increased checks on vehicles transporting olives and olive oil. However, the rise in prices has led to increased thefts from supermarkets as well. The concern is high, as experts say that the increase in theft attempts may not have reached its maximum peak.

Theft Incidents in Mills and Supermarkets

Theft incidents involving olive oil have been on the rise in mills and supermarkets across Spain. This has become a growing problem for officials as they try to address the issue and find ways to prevent further thefts. The thefts have affected not only mills and groves but also supermarkets, where the rising prices of olive oil have made it an attractive target for criminals.

Increase in Olive Oil Thefts

One of the largest olive oil-producing provinces in Andalusia, Carcabuey, Córdoba, recently experienced a significant theft incident. Approximately 50,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil, valued at €500,000, were stolen from a mill. This incident highlights the growing problem of thefts in the industry and the need for increased security measures.

Theft in Carcabuey Mill

The theft in Carcabuey was described as "unfortunate" and "dangerous" by Ignacio Fernández de Mesa, the president of the Córdoba chapter of the Association of Young Farmers and Ranchers. He believes that the high price of olive oil is tempting criminals to target mills and farms. This incident serves as a warning for other mills and farms that they may also become victims of theft.

Rising Olive Oil Prices

Theft incidents have been driven by the rising prices of olive oil. Catalina Madueño, the government's representative in Jaén, explains that the increased organized criminal activity in Andalusia and the higher prices of olive oil are the main reasons behind the rise in thefts. In the 2022/23 crop year, 260,000 kilograms of olives, valued at €161,000, were stolen in Jaén, the world's largest olive oil-producing province. This represents a 28% increase compared to the previous crop year.

Increase in Organized Criminal Activity

The rise in thefts can be attributed to the increase in organized criminal activity in the olive oil industry. Criminal organizations are targeting mills and groves to steal olive oil and olives. They break into mills at night to steal olive oil from storage tanks, and in groves, they steal already harvested olives or even take the time to harvest the olives from the trees. This organized criminal activity poses a significant threat to the industry and requires immediate action to deter and prevent further thefts.

Theft Incidents in Jaén Province

Jaén, the largest olive oil-producing province in the world, has seen a significant increase in theft incidents. In the 2022/23 crop year, 260,000 kilograms of olives, valued at €161,000, were stolen. This represents a 28% increase compared to the previous crop year. The high value of olives and olive oil in the province makes it an attractive target for criminals.

Decrease in Theft Due to Lower Harvest

Interestingly, the relative decrease in theft incidents between the 2021/22 and 2022/23 crop years is not due to improved security measures. Instead, it is a result of the lower harvest in the latter year. Officials have noted that the decrease in theft incidents should not be seen as a permanent solution, as criminals will likely continue to target the industry as long as the prices of olive oil remain high.

Methods of Theft: Mills vs Groves

Theft incidents in the olive oil industry occur in both mills and groves, with different methods used in each. In mills, criminal organizations break in at night to steal olive oil from storage tanks. They take advantage of the darkness and the lack of security measures to carry out their thefts. In groves, thieves target already harvested olives that are awaiting transport to mills, or they may even take the time to harvest the olives from the trees themselves. These different methods require different security measures to deter and prevent thefts.

Efforts to Deter Theft

Authorities have been making efforts to deter and prevent theft incidents in the olive oil industry, particularly in mills and groves. The Guardia Civil, a branch of the armed forces that acts in a policing capacity, has increased its efforts to combat thefts. They have been conducting more checks on vehicles transporting olives and olive oil, ensuring that the appropriate documentation indicating the origin of the olives is present. Vehicles without proper documentation have their fruit confiscated and destroyed as a deterrent. Additionally, when authorities intercept tanks of stolen oil, they attempt to return it to the rightful owner. These efforts aim to make it more difficult for criminals to steal and profit from stolen olives and olive oil.

Disposal of Confiscated Fruit and Oil

The disposal of confiscated fruit and oil has been a topic of debate among agricultural and political bodies. Some argue that the stolen olives should be transformed into olive oil and donated to non-governmental organizations, rather than being destroyed. They believe that this would prevent waste and provide assistance to those in need. However, others argue that the destruction of stolen olives is necessary to discourage theft and send a strong message to potential criminals. The debate surrounding the disposal of confiscated fruit and oil highlights the complexities of addressing theft incidents in the olive oil industry.

Thefts from Supermarkets

Not only mills and groves but also supermarkets have been targeted by thieves due to the rising prices of olive oil. According to the Consumer and User Organization in Spain, retail prices of olive oil have increased by up to 30% per liter since July. This increase in prices has led to an increase in theft attempts, with criminals targeting various sizes of olive oil bottles. Supermarket chains have been investing in anti-robbery devices, such as collars for bottled olive oil, to deter thefts. This growing concern for thefts from supermarkets further emphasizes the need for increased security measures and efforts to prevent further incidents.

Specific Theft Incidents

Thefts involving olive oil have not been limited to one specific area but have been reported across Spain. In Badajoz, Extremadura, 42,300 kilograms of olives were stolen in two separate incidents earlier this year. This indicates that theft incidents are not confined to the larger olive oil-producing regions but can occur in various areas. In Madrid, 16 people were arrested for stealing over 17,500 kilograms of olives from farms. This highlights the need for increased security measures not only in mills and groves but also in other areas where olive oil thefts can occur. A significant police operation in Antequera, Málaga, resulted in the arrest of nine people suspected of stealing 34,000 kilograms of olives. This operation showcases the efforts being made by authorities to combat olive oil thefts and bring the criminals to justice.

Impact on Retail Prices

The increase in olive oil thefts has had a direct impact on retail prices. Retail prices of olive oil in Spain have risen by up to 30% per liter since July. Extra virgin olive oil prices have increased by 15.4% over the same period. The rising prices of olive oil have made it an attractive target for thefts, as criminals see an opportunity to profit from the high demand and prices. As a result, there has been an increase in theft attempts, prompting retailers to invest in anti-robbery devices to protect their olive oil stock.

Increase in Theft Attempts

According to Salvador Cañones, the managing partner of STC, a company that manufactures anti-robbery devices, theft attempts increase by a factor of five with every 20% increase in consumer goods prices. This means that as olive oil prices continue to rise, the number of theft attempts is likely to increase as well. Previously, the main type of olive oil stolen was from the gourmet category. However, there has been a recent increase in orders for protectors for one-liter bottles and even larger containers, such as three and five-liter jugs. This shift in the size of targeted bottles indicates the growing concern for thefts and the need for increased security measures across different types of olive oil packaging.

Demand for Anti-Robbery Devices

The rise in theft attempts has created a higher demand for anti-robbery devices in the olive oil industry. STC has seen a significant increase in sales of anti-theft devices for olive oil bottles. Salvador Cañones stated that in his 26 years in the industry, he has never seen such an increase in demand for these devices. This indicates the urgency for mills, groves, and supermarkets to invest in security measures to protect their olive oil stock. The growing demand for anti-robbery devices showcases the industry's response to the rising theft incidents and the need for proactive measures to prevent further thefts.

In conclusion, theft incidents involving olive oil have been on the rise in mills and supermarkets across Spain. These incidents have been driven by the increasing prices of olive oil and the organized criminal activity in the industry. Mills and groves have been targeted by criminal organizations, who use different methods to steal olive oil and olives. Efforts to deter theft have been made by authorities, including increased checks on vehicles and the disposal of confiscated fruit and oil. The rise in thefts has also affected supermarkets, leading to increased demand for anti-robbery devices. The impact of thefts on retail prices has been significant, with prices of olive oil increasing and retailers investing in security measures. The rise in theft attempts highlights the need for increased security measures and efforts to prevent further incidents in the olive oil industry.

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