Apple thefts grow in Aomori; may targets of organized gangs

AOMORI, Nov. 13 ― Apple thefts are on the rise in Aomori prefecture, Japan’s largest apple growing region.

“Growers are feeling wretched after losing fruits of their labors,” said an official from the JA Tsugaru Hirosaki, a regional farmers cooperative in Aomori.

According to the Aomori police, five theft cases have been reported since October, totaling 13,000 apples stolen as of Nov. 12, including 500,000 yen worth of Fuji apples in Hirosaki city and 400,000 yen worth of Fuji apples in Tsugaru city.

“And reports to police may be the tip of the iceberg,” the official said.

Incidents include a series of daylight thefts, and farmers sometimes can’t notify police immediately as it is difficult to distinguish between outsourcing businesses and thieves in their orchards.

Growing apples in Japan is a difficult task due to the country’s hot and humid summers: The trees must be pruned daily to remove excess fruit; and the remaining apples must be wrapped individually to protect them from pests and provide shade from the harsh sun.

And many apples growers have come to rely on outsourcing to harvest their fruit at the peak seasons, as they are ageing and young people don’t want to go into farming.

Last year, two theft cases of about 1,030 apples were reported.

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