According to police reports, the commercial value of the carob, priced at between €0.60 and €0.80 per kilogram, makes it one of the main targets for theft from farms in the region - along with avocados and oranges - and several seizures of large quantities of carob were recorded during the summer.

According to the GNR, after a slight drop in the quantity of carob recovered in the region from 2018 to 2019 (from 1.78 to 1.23 tonnes), this year there has been an increase to 5.4 tonnes, accompanied by an increase in the number of reports of theft of carob to a total of 78.

Carob bean seeds are used in various industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food - as an additive for puddings, baby food and ice cream stabilisers - and also in the textile industry.

Carob pulp, which represents 90 percent of the weight of the fruit, is used in various sweets such as biscuits and cakes, liqueurs, syrup, bread and animal feed.

According to the GNR, thefts take place during the harvest season, “especially between the months of June to September,” and the perpetrators of these crimes usually target “agricultural warehouses and annexes to the producer’s residence, where the carobs are usually packed until they are sold”.

“The data recorded indicates that, in general terms, thefts on agricultural land are carried out by people in the region, who know the territory, and who make the harvest on the properties or agricultural land (unsealed spaces) without authorisation to do so”, said the security force.

As for the most affected areas, they are mainly in “the central zone of the Algarve, in a strip that extends from the municipality of Albufeira to the municipality of Olhão,” the GNR added.

Aware of this phenomenon, the GNR is carrying out the “Campo Seguro” operation, which began on 6 June and continues until 31 December, with the aim of combating the theft and illegal harvesting of these products from farms in the region.

The GNR stressed that within the framework of operation “Campo Seguro” and in collaboration with other security forces, “patrols on farms have been stepped up” with the aim of preventing crime and theft, “as well as possible situations of human trafficking”.

Meanwhile, the security force also promotes “information and awareness-raising activities among rural communities, especially farmers, on measures to prevent and protect against thefts of agricultural products, copper and other non-precious metals”.