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PUBLISHER: Fresh Plaza (www.freshplaza.com)

Stealing fruit might sound like mischief. It has, however, become a massive threat to an industry worth billions.

I remember those late nights slipping out of the school res, making a beeline for oom Hendrik’s orchards. The best yellow clings in the world. But it never did hurt oom Hendrik or the other farmers then. At one school function, he even referred to those disappearing peaches as the angels’ share. Those were the days my friend, I thought they’ll never end. They did.

“Fruit theft, I reckon, is as old as fruit farming,” Nic Dicey, Hortgro Chairman and fruit farmer on La Plaisante just outside Wolseley, starts his story. “But today, fruit theft is out of control. When you leave, drive the five kilometres to town and count the number of people on the side of the road, virtually everyone with a backpack filled with peaches. Stolen from me and my neighbours in broad daylight.”

The losses and damages due to fruit theft are massive but almost impossible to quantify. However, according to Louis Wessels, Manager: Legal Services and Administration at Agri Western Cape individual producers’ estimated losses ranging from R40 000 to R600 000 last season. The problem is, to really know what the damage is, you need to know how many thieves there are. But how? They’re not going to report to a census return. They are criminals, says Wessels.

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