Chilean walnut thefts reach US$2.8M in two years
The Chilean Walnut Association has urged authorities to do more to stop thefts from trucks and processing plants, claiming CLP2 billion (US$2.8 million) of nuts have been stolen over the last two years.
The group said it had been working with the government and police to prevent and combat the organized crime networks behind the robberies.
One of most recent cases allegedly involved Chilean footballer Michael Ríos, who police claim helped in a robbery of a truck carrying US$95,000 of walnuts.
"We are already seeing the results from industry-wide efforts to tackle this problem," said Chilean Walnut Association president Andrés Rodríguez.
"An even more important goal than stopping the robberies is disrupting the gangs that seem to operate with impunity.
"With the case of the footballer, this situation is becoming far more visible among the public, but this issue has been a critical topic for the industry for the last two years."
The representative said the issue was affecting the entire tree nut and dried fruit industries.
One of many initiatives currently being jointly developed by the association and the police involves the implementation of security protocols.
Rodríguez said the aim of the preventative work was to find the best way of coordinating between industry and police.
"With respect to legal actions, we have achieved something previously unprecedented - the uniting of the whole industry under a common cause and the motivating of the Attorney General to focus efforts on thwarting the conspiracy that lies behind these thefts."
Progress has also been made in strategic work to analyze who finances these crimes.
Chile's dried fruit and tree nut industries generate around US$1 billion annually, with walnuts and prunes among the most important products. The majority of Chilean walnut production is bound for export, according to Rodríguez.