Thieves have stolen $850,000 AUD (€500,000) worth of Spanish olive oil, showing how soaring prices are driving an increase in crime, posing challenges for producers and authorities alike.
When we report on high-value thefts here at DMARGE, it’s usually precious gems from a Bulgari store or expensive parts from a plane graveyard; this news of a daring olive oil heist underscores its rising value and could mark the beginning of a brand new type of crime wave.
Thieves made off with a staggering $850,000 AUD worth of the precious liquid in the latest example of how record-high olive oil prices are fueling a surge in criminal activity, leaving producers and authorities grappling with a growing crisis.
The incident took place in the early hours of August 30th when approximately 50,000 litres of extra virgin olive oil vanished from a mill in Spain’s Cordoba province, as reported by Bloomberg. Under the cover of darkness, the culprits loaded the top-quality oil into two large tanks in an operation that took around two hours to execute.
WATCH: The travel industry is equally riddled with thefts…
Spain, the world’s leading olive oil producer, has been grappling with skyrocketing prices as a result of severe drought. These thefts add another layer of concern for producers who are already dealing with extreme weather, rising production costs, and uncertainties in demand due to budget-conscious consumers.
Martin Parra, manager at Marin Serrano El Lagar SL — the company affected by the recent theft— expressed his concerns:
“Everyone is worried because the price is going to keep climbing, and olive oil is truly becoming liquid gold.”Martin Parra
Spain’s ongoing olive crisis serves as a stark reminder of how climate change can threaten supply chains. A devastating drought had already halved the nation’s olive oil output in the 2022-23 season, and production challenges in Italy have further constrained global supplies.
All of this is reflected in soaring prices: Extra virgin olive oil prices in Spanish supermarkets have surged 15% since mid-July, according to the consumer association OCU. As a result, thieves are targeting both freshly picked fruit and processed oil.
According to government data, some 259,000 kilograms of olives were stolen in Spain’s critical Jaen region in the 2022-23 season, marking a 29% increase from the previous year. In a similar incident this August, burglars targeted 7,000 litres of olive oil in Malaga.
To combat the escalating threat, producers are taking measures to improve security, including the installation of new gates and the hiring of security guards. However, without official traceability documents, there’s a high chance that if this latest batch of stolen oil manages to cross Spanish borders, it will be lost for good.
This may be one of the first crime waves we’ve seen as a result of climate change but it surely will not be the last. While companies look to increase security at their facilities, the wider issue is one of increasing our global resource security. On that front, we turn to our governments to watch and wait…