Food by VICE

The Avocado Black Market Is So Bad in New Zealand that There Are Waitlists to Buy Trees

Earlier this year, the price of a single avocado in New Zealand peaked at NZ$7, or about $4.60 USD.

by Lauren Rothman
Aug 14 2018, 2:00pm

Photo via Flickr user The LEAF Project

Each time it seems like we’ve reached Peak Avocado—as represented by $22 avo toast, high-tech sprays that slow down ripening time or a cereal cafe that serves its breakfasts in the hollowed-out shells of the beloved fruit—another example of extreme avocado fiending comes along to prove that the green, fatty beauties will forever hold the title of favored fruit.

There’s no shortage of evidence pointing to the fact that people are down to go to some extreme lengths to obtain avocados—take, for instance, the Chilean department store that sold a local man a new Motorola cell phone in exchange for 127 pounds of the bumpy black fruits—but news out of New Zealand takes the cake. Down Under, thieves are stripping thousands of dollars’ worth of avocados from fruit trees, then selling the unlawfully obtained bounty on Facebook and to ask-no-questions grocery stores. Growers have been left bereft after losing their valuable stock to well-organized bands of criminals who descend on the groves after sunset.

"We were hit on full moon on June 22. The whole of the Western Bay was aglow so the thieves could whistle in and out," an orchard owner, Dianne Cheshire, told the New Zealand Herald . "It stings me to the marrow of my bones. We know these trees as well as we know our children."

Many Kiwis are in a rush to plant their own avo trees, either to supply their steady habit or to sell the highly valuable fruits: Earlier this year, the price of a single avocado peaked at NZ$7, or about $4.60 USD. So many people want to get their hands on trees, in fact, that garden centers and plant nurseries can’t keep up with demand, reporting waiting lists dozens deep as winter temperatures warm and springtime planting season approaches in Oceania. A nursery owner in the country’s Waikato district told Stuff that he’s received 86 requests for Hass saplings, plus 44 for Bacon avocado trees (didn’t know that was a thing, but it sounds perfect), 58 for Fuerte trees, and 29 for the Reed varietal.

"[Avocado trees] are very sought after and there's definitely a shortage," the owner of a different nursery, Andrew Grilli, told the site.

Would-be avocado growers surely have visions of deep vats of guac and bottomless “deconstructed avocado toast” bowls dancing in their heads—but even if they manage to score a tree from one of the country’s stripped-bare garden centers, those delicious dishes will have to wait: It takes avocado saplings an average of three to five years to start fruiting. In the meantime, they’ll just have to keep purchasing their drug of choice from the booming black market.