Police in Seville in southern Spain have arrested four members of a dedicated olive-stealing gang and are investigating another five people linked to the theft.
The arrests are the fruit of an investigation by the Guardia Civil into the theft of olives from groves in the Sierra Sur region of Seville in November and December 2015.
Police said that they suspected the thefts were being carried out by an organized gang – one person responsible for finding the olive grove, while the rest of the gang move in later to pick and steal the olives at a time when the property has as little surveillance as possible.
The gang members then load the olives into vehicles and take them to the point of sale, according to police sources.
Police believe the four men currently under arrest, who are of Romanian origin, are members of the organized gang.
Officers seized 10,679 kg of olives which have been returned to their rightful owners, according to regional newspaper, El Correo.
Farmers in the region had been forced to form their own vigilante groups to carry out night time patrols of olive groves after a recent rise in the number of robberies.
With Spanish olive reserves low after the industry suffered two consecutive years of poor seasons, prices have surged since the start of the year by more than fifty percent.
And after a long hot summer, 2015 promises to produce a bumper harvest but the downside of high prices and easy pickings is that thieving gangs have moved in to cash in the crop.