A sudden jump in the price of fresh produce has brought in its wake a new kind of crime: the wholesale theft of fruit and vegetable crops across France.
French farmers are not known for their even temper. In Brittany last week, they were smashing hundreds of thousands of eggs outside the city hall in Carhaix to complain about the collapse of egg prices.
You’d think that they’d be happy that, because of a cold spring, the price of fruit has gone up by 14 per cent compared with last year, and vegetables by 17 per cent. But no – they are furious about the large-scale thefts by professional thieves who are helping themselves directly from the fields. The farmers also complain that they are being undercut by cheaper imports.
One cherry farmer, Ghislain Mascaux, told TF1 television that he had invested ¤20,000 (£17,000) in a wire netting fence to protect his property. Another farmer in the Pyrenees complained that six tonnes of nectarines had been stolen from his orchard. He said that the thieves would have needed ladders and vans for such an operation. A farmer in northern France said that thieves in a 4x4 stole 150 kilos of garlic – worth ¤6 (£5) a kilo – from his fields.
The farmers think the stolen produce is being sold in local markets. Police say that there’s not much they can do, and there’s no insurance against theft from fields. Pity the farmer who bought a camera to detect the thieves at work – not only did they steal his fruit, they also made off with the camera.