This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Purloined Fresh Olives

"We've always had some thieving here, but I've never seen anything like this. Looting has become the order of the day."
"Once we showed people that the thieves could be caught, things changed."
"People come during the day to choose where to steal from. They mark the trees for later."
"We are not racists; we're just sick of this thieving, and we have had Spanish people stealing too, but this is a powder keg and it's about to go off. Imagine what could happen if the wrong person finds someone stealing in a very remote spot... We will be in the news as the village where someone got lynched."
Antonio Masa Canada, olive farmer, Navalvillar de Pela, Spain

"...This is our living. We don't have a life at the minute; you come home from picking [olives]; have a shower and then go out again on patrol."
Rosa Arroyo Baviano, Masa Canada's wife

"If you stop the buyers, you stop the problem in 24 hours. People are picking earlier than normal this year due to the fear. If you wait, you get more oil in the olive. By February the fruit is shiny with oil almost oozing out."
"We reacted slowly [to the ongoing thefts], but in the end we got out here, and it's working. The thieves know we are here."
Paco, olive grove farmer

Stolen olives pouring out the back of a carStolen olives pouring out the back of a car  Photo: Guardia Civil

There are four thousand people living in the village of Navalvillar de Pela. And each family grows their own olive trees; they're small-time farmers. And they've got a fight on their hands. Their olive crops are being harvested by unauthorized people seeking to enrich themselves at the farmers' expense, and they have no intention of simply allowing this theft to continue without themselves doing something to stop it.

The olives have begun to ripen, and the time is right to defend their product. Romanian and Bulgarian thieves appear during the night-time hours and strip the trees. They beat the fruit off the trees with poles, then gather the fruit, pile them into sacks and drive off with them. Their looting of the olives has become a black market business that has proven useful for them and a considerable locus of pain and anger for the rightful owners.

In mid-November, 26,000 kilograms of olives were stripped from olive trees with an estimated value of $24,800. After processing, the best virgin oils are produced, valued on the retail food market. The olive grove farmers would not be as alarmed and defensive about their olives if it weren't for the wholesale nature of the thefts, stripping their trees entirely of their seasonal crops, leaving them nothing.

They were pressed to take their own initiative, unable to rely on local police, since there is only one Civil Guard patrol car tasked to patrol an area 40 miles wide. Once, the village patrol caught seven people, chasing the perpetrators by car down winding country roads, and taking seven people into custody to hand them over to the Civil Guard. To their dismay the seven whom they had discovered with 218 kilos of olives in their van were released and told to appear at a later date in court.

The small family olive growers in the village have a fairly good idea where their purloined olives turn up; at large producers whom they suspect of taking the olives and mixing them with their own crops before processing.

Olive harvest, Spain (file photo)Olive harvest, Spain (file photo)  Photo: Alamy

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