Black market avocado thieves leave local growers out of pocket

Black market avocado poachers are leaving growers thousands of dollars out of pocket, as the price of the fruit shoots up.

But one grower says the sushi shops and corner stores buying the stolen produce are the root of the problem.

Neville Cooper's little slice of paradise is comprised of 320 trees and up to 9000 trays of avocados every year.

But that paradise is under attack. Thieves are costing him his livelihood. 

"Oh well there's three thousand dollars gone this week and maybe the same next week and so forth and then all of a sudden it takes a fair chunk of your income," he told Newshub.

Thieves have already ripped more than a thousand of the fruits from Cooper's trees this month alone.

Last year, his orchard was robbed four times. Thieves were undeterred by CCTV cameras and wire fences.

"You put all this work into it and they just come in and they wreck it," Cooper told Newshub on Friday.

But there's some natural justice. The fruit this month weren't even ripe.

"Three months away so yeah, they'll mostly be water," said Cooper.

Cooper says the robberies started three years ago and as avocado prices have increased, so have the thefts.

Cooper wants to see police come down hard on those buying off the black market.

"We have all these scumbags in the sushi shops and corner shops that are buying them," he said.

Police are urging growers to install more hidden cameras and want the public to refuse to buy any avocados from uncertain sources.