Lemon thieves leave sour taste

Monday June 08, 2020 Written by Published in Crime
Last year young planters raised concerns as their hard work was stripped by those alleged to have been stealing from their plantations. 19071801 Last year young planters raised concerns as their hard work was stripped by those alleged to have been stealing from their plantations. 19071801

Lemon growers face uncertain future from thieves and Covid-19 threats.

Two months after a teenage couple were acquitted for allegedly stealing lemons from the Wigmore’s Farm, another teenager was before the court for a similar charge.

However, this time the young man, Fredrick Marsters admitted to the charge of theft.

Marsters, who did not have any legal representative, admitted to stealing 10 kilogrammes of lemons worth $50 from the Wigmore property in Titikaveka on March 18.

He will be sentenced before three Justices of the Peace on July 15.

Lemon theft is fast becoming a common issue on Rarotonga following a series of other unreported cases on the island.

Earlier in the year, a Rarotonga grower with the help of the neighbour caught a couple and two other females trying to steal lemon from their plantation.

Mereana Tutai said her husband warned them not to come back to their plot again or they would take action. 

Tutai said the culprits had picked two sacks of lemons weighing about 40kgs, including those that were not ready. 

She said they had to consume the lemons themselves, as they “couldn't possibly sell it to customers who are mainly restaurants”. 

Tutai said she was upset and angry, because her husband worked really hard on his plantation.

“This is the same for all farmers as well, whether they are commercial like the Wigmore’s or small time. They work really, really, hard!” she said.

“Planting/agriculture takes a lot of time and manpower, and many processes to get to the planting stage. Then you have to wait for your product to be ready before you can harvest and sell it in the final stage.

“It’s very annoying and disappointing when someone comes along and not only steals but also gets the monetary benefit from it.”

The idea behind stealing lemons is for quick cash, Tutai said. 

“I don’t think that the thieves will continue to steal because, who would they sell it to?” she said.

“With no (major) restaurants open, no one will buy it. Restaurants are the only ones that take lemons or other products in large quantities.”

Tutai said they now have heaps of lemons ready for picking but no buyers as all major restaurants are closed.

She now relies on social media to sell the citrus fruits to household customers.

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