The Norman Transcript

Homepage

January 19, 2014

Nut farmers fight theft

ESCALON, Calif. — The soaring value of California’s nut crops is attracting a new breed of thieves who have been making off with the pricey commodities by the truckload, recalling images of cattle rustlers of bygone days.

This harvest season in the Central Valley, thieves cut through a fence and hauled off $400,000 in walnuts. An additional $100,000 in almonds was stolen by a driver with a fake license. And $100,000 in pistachios was taken by a big rig driver who left a farm without filling out any paperwork.

Investigators suspect low-level organized crime may have a hand in cases, while some pilfered nuts are ending up in Los Angeles for resale at farmers markets or disappear into the black market.

Domestic demand for specialty foods and an expanding Asian market for them have prompted a nut orchard boom in the state’s agricultural heartland. Such heists have become so common that an industry taskforce recently formed to devise ways to thwart thieves.

“The Wild West is alive and well in certain aspects,” said Danielle Oliver of the California Farm Bureau. “There’s always someone out there trying to make a quick dollar on somebody else’s hard work.”

Amid the nut boom, farmers have torn out vineyards and other crops to plant nut trees to keep up with demand. Real estate firms, retirement funds and insurance companies have taken note by adding almonds, walnut and pistachio land to diversify their portfolios.

As the nation’s top nut producer, the state grows more almonds and pistachios than any other country. Only China produces more walnuts, which have nearly tripled in price in the last five years to about $2 a pound, according to the California Walnut Board.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that through 2012 the state’s almond crop was valued at $5 billion per year, pistachios were over $1 billion and walnuts were over $1.5 billion.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Headlines

Sports
Opinion

Features

Must Read

Big 12 Media Days
Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
Business

Photos


Facebook