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Diatribe: Guard Your Nuts! Heists On The Rise!

01/21/2014

NutThiefI had dinner at a Mongolian Grill restaurant over the weekend, where diners select the ingredients for their meal.  The Asian stir-fry concept includes a variety of meats and vegetables that can be combined with different flavored sauces and starches to create a unique dish for each diner.  I remember thinking to myself as I ate my dinner “This is really tasty, but it would be so much better with peanuts or cashews.”

I had no idea that nuts had become a hot commodity.  Hot enough, in fact, to steal by the truckload.

Like the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, the state is experiencing a “nut rush”!  As the nation’s top nut producer, California 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.  The soaring value of these crops is attracting a new group of crooks who have been hauling off nuts by the truckload like cattle rustlers of the Old West.

Central California’s almond crop is thought to be valued at as much as five billion dollars per year, pistachios and walnuts more than one billion dollars each per year.  This harvest season, thieves have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of walnuts, almonds and pistachios.  Some of the stolen nuts are ending up in Los Angeles area farmers markets and others on the black market, yet investigators suspect low-level organized crime may be responsible for the thefts.

Farmers in the area have torn out vineyards and other crops to plant nut trees hoping to keep up with demand for specials foods and an expanding Asian market.  Real estate firms, retirement funds and insurance companies have reportedly added almond, wanut and pistachio land to diversify their portfolios.

Everybody wants the “nut gold”.

The quick rise in value of the crop has spawned a special sort of crime.  One of the most common methods that criminals appear to be using to steal loads of nuts is a type of industrial identity theft known as a “fictitious pickup” which involves con artists who provide fabricated documentation and vehicle identification in order to illegally haul off shipments.  The seller usually doesn’t know that they’ve been victimized until the buyer complains that they haven’t received their order.

Nut thievery has become such a problem that growers and processors have formed a taskforce to seek advice from law enforcement and to create checklists that include reminders to fingerprint drivers, take their photos and call their broker to confirm that the paperwork is legitimate … all common-sense steps that can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in vanishing nut cargo.

I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the effects of the California Nut Rush hit our pocketbooks in restaurants and supermarkets as we, the consumer, pay the price for the criminal acts of the nut rustlers running the roads of the Golden State.

Have you noticed an increase in the price of nuts?  Did you know there were Black Market Nuts?

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6 Comments
  1. This is a sad state of affairs. They wait for someone to do all the hard work and then steal the truck load. Maybe their punishment is to work as laborers to harvest the nuts.

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  2. I had no idea there was such a shortage of nuts! I thought they were just absent because so many people have developed allergies!

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  3. thedogs'mother permalink

    I eat a lot of nuts as it is my protein of choice. Now I might have to buy sirloin or prime rib!! 😉

    Like

  4. I live in Houston, I am an almond and cashew “nut”. I have noticed over the years they are rising in price as well as impossible to find at times. However, the small markets and farmer markets always seem to have ample supplies, but for a premium price of course.

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  5. Perhaps we should start hoarding like squirrels!

    Like

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