Organised crime blamed for spate of avocado theft across western Bay of Plenty

Police are blaming organised crime rings for a huge spate of avocado thefts sweeping across western Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga police said there have been more than 40 burglaries at orchards in the area in the last two months alone.

Eight bags stuffed full of avocados were nearly stolen in an overnight raid, but an orchard worker busted the would-be thief at dawn running to a station wagon parked nearby. 

While the job was abandoned, New Zealand Avocado said growers are being hit with a spate of burglaries this winter.  

"There's a very low supply coming to retailers and available to consumers," New Zealand Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular told Newshub.

An almost failed crop over summer, combined with the fact avocados are out of season, has created huge demand for the popular health food. 

They reached their highest average price of $5 in May. At the moment they cost about $3.50 each.  

"Unfortunately it does create a little bit of an opportunistic time for thieves," Ms Scoular said.

Shoppers can make sure they're not buying stolen fruit by knowing what a legitimately harvested avocado stalk looks like. Each avocado should have a three to five millimetre stalk, Ms Scoular said.

"If it's too long, it's just that it's broken off where they've raked it off the tree, or where they've raked it off really harshly, the stalk disappears completely."

Police are asking growers to keep a look out for suspicious cars, and record number plates. 

But they say one avocado theft ring seems to have been busted - two alleged burglars are before the courts in Tauranga, along with a man charged with buying stolen fruit from them.