Last year, more than 20,000 thefts were reported at Spanish farms. Is that more or less than in previous years? No one is sure, it was never a problem before so they have few records. Now, thieves steal food from farmers and resell them in ad hoc markets. Welcome to the 14th century. All those people who think the past was better get to see it first hand.
But it is a big enough problem now that police have taken to patrolling farmland and farmers have set up nighttime patrols on their own. Some villages even have several thousand paramilitary Civil Guards with checkpoints to look for stolen fruit or farming equipment, like copper wire used in irrigation systems.
Of course, criminals will sometimes get smart about it.
Sheep rancher and lemon grower Vicente Carrion, head of the local branch of a farm lobby in the lush eastern region of Murcia, said thieves plan their hits according to what crops are getting good prices. So they are like futures traders, only instead of monitoring oil or gold, they watch artichoke or orange prices. "If there is no price, they don't touch it." Carrion said. "Prices are not stable over the course of the year. When they peak, that is when they strike."
Tasty booty in Spain as crisis spawns crop theft by Daniel Woolls, Associated Press