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Fruit farmers step up vigilance against theft

TOKYO >> Seasonal fruits such as peaches and cherries are being stolen in large quantities in many areas ahead of harvest, with some locations seeing higher losses than in previous years. Some producers are installing mobile security cameras and sensors to detect intruders.

“For a year, I put all my effort into growing these peaches,” said a disappointed grower as he gazed at a peach tree in June in a field in Yamanashi city. Only the leaves remained after the fruit had been picked.

The stolen fruit comprised some 4,000 Hikawa Hakuho peaches, worth nearly $7,400. He was set to send out his first harvest in a few days’ time.

In June Yamanashi prefecture, a peach-growing region, had seen a string of thefts of peaches. According to police, a total of about 14,400 peaches worth about $28,500 had been stolen, including about 1,400 in Fuefuki on June 15.

According to the local branch of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, usually only a few dozen to a few hundred pieces are stolen around July. “This is an unprecedented pace of loss,” an official said.

Police and members of the cooperative have begun patrols a month earlier than usual. The prefectural government is subsidizing the cost of installing security cameras and sensor lights, and police are investigating sales routes for stolen peaches.

In Yamagata prefecture, thefts of cherries, a specialty of the prefecture, occur every season. In 2021 more than 600 pounds worth approximately $11,000 were stolen, the biggest loss in a decade.

There is also concern about the theft of grapes and other products through the end of fall. In Yamanashi the harvest season for open-air grapes of the high-end Shine Muscat begins around August. Thefts of about 2,500 bunches, worth about $26,000, were confirmed in 2021.

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