CI News has been made aware of several instances in which thieves have raided taro patches and left little for the owners and their families.
In one case, two plantations belonging to an elderly man were hollowed out, with the raiders just leaving an outer ring of taro plants to try to hide their crime.
The stolen taro and rukau leaves are believed to be destined for sale here or sent to Cook Islanders living overseas.
Inspector John Strickland has asked for public help in tracking down the thieves.
“I’m sure some people know who they are, they just don’t want to say.
“This is no joke, it is a serious matter.
“It falls under the category of theft, of thieving, and the penalty is up to five years in prison.”
Strickland said he had little time for the taro thieves.
“These people are lazy. They don’t think of the time spent by the planter, or the owner, in taking care of his plantation. I call those type of people lazy and what they do is not right.”
The inspector asked anyone with information to call them so they could stop the raids.
“We are not always everywhere to see what is going on, but we would appreciate information brought to our notice.
“We would love to catch the culprits and the people who are their victims will appreciate it.”
And he said his officers will take greater notice of who is selling taro and rukau around the island.
“We notice quite a lot of people selling food and we wonder if they have plantations.
“Action will be taken if we discover criminal activity.”
If people have information on those raiding plantations they can call 22499, or Crimestoppers on 0800 22200. The calls will be kept confidential.