Avocado gang keeps farmers awake at night

Packaged avocado. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Fear has gripped Kaburugi village in Kandara after thieves made away with avocados valued at Sh77,000 in the last three days.

The gang that specialises in stealing the fruits normally accesses farms in the dead of night, harvests the avocados and sells them to their contacts for between Sh5 and Sh10 per kilogramme depending on the size.

On Tuesday morning, some of the avocados were traced to the home of a local woman. Residents said her son had gone into hiding.

David Kagema Gitau narrated how the neighour invaded his farm and stole fruits, which he hid in his mother’s house.

“What is worrying is that the gang was only interested in immature fruits, which were discovered hidden. I am requesting the government to take stern action against those out to sabotage the lucrative avocado business,” Mr Gitau said.

Other victims are Joseph Guchu, Mary Wanjiru and Muiruri Ndung’u. The farmers have reported the thefts to their union officials.

Avocado for export at a farm in Thika, May 2022.  [David Gichuru, Standard]

A police source revealed that avocado theft was high in the locality because there was a ready market, which is fed by tens of agents contracted by processing factories in Murang’a and beyond.

Yesterday, Murang’a Avocado Farmers Union Chairman John Mwaniki toured Kaburugi village to meet the farmers. He appealed to the police to end the wave of thefts.

Mr Mwaniki said farmers were losing millions of shillings as the criminal gangs were taking advantage of the expanding marketing space.

“What is worrying is that the gangs are going for immature avocados, which the government and Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) have been discouraging farmers from harvesting so as not to compromise the local and international market,” said Mr Mwaniki.

Kandara sub-County Police Commander Michael Mwaura said the thefts were caused by lack of governance structures.

“We have been having meetings with the farmers in efforts to safeguard the sector and warn them of emerging threats. The challenge is experienced in Murang’a County, but the police are ready to resolve it,” said Mr Mwaura.