Kiwis urged to be wary of black market avocados

Avocado buyers are being urged to double-check where their fruit comes from with stolen, insecticide-sprayed avocados reportedly being sold in some parts of the country.

An avocado grower in Northland told NZME earlier this week thieves had been stealing fruit from her trees and then selling it in town.

As well as hurting growers' businesses, the alleged thefts could also pose a health risk, as the fruit could contain insecticide.

Jen Scoular, chief executive of New Zealand Avocado, said the reports were concerning.

"I think it is a real issue," Scoular told Dominic George on Magic Talk's Rural Today on Wednesday.

"We have a spray diary system for avocados grown here in New Zealand, so any chemicals that are applied have to be inputed at an orchard level, and that enables everyone to know whether the withholding period has been met."

The withholding period is the period of time the fruit should not be eaten, as chemical residue can still be present.

Because stolen fruit is not yet ready for sale, that residue could still be present and pose a risk to anyone who eats it.

"I think it's an awareness to consumers and those purchasing, if they're purchasing as a fruit shop or a small fruteria, that they really need to be aware of the source of their avocados," Scoular said.

She adds that it's always important to ask at farmers markets or wherever you're buying avocados.

"The growers of avocados love talking about where they come from so it's a great way of engaging with the person who's selling and making sure that they are coming from an orchard with food safety in place."