crime

More than 10,000 asparagus spears stolen from Niigata farm

33 Comments

Police said Sunday that more than 10,000 asparagus spears were stolen from a farm in Niigata Prefecture over the weekend.

According to police, the asparagus were stolen from a farm in Tsunan sometime early Saturday morning. TBS quoted police as saying they had been cut at the base of their stalks from a 6,000-square-meter plot of farmland.

Police said the owner noticed the theft when he arrived to begin harvesting the asparagus at around 4 a.m. Saturday.

The value of the stolen asparagus was estimated at 150,000 yen.

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33 Comments
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Probably the thief is unemployed vegetarian with no fixed address ... still better than killing some one at random.

9 ( +11 / -5 )

In related news, police report that 1,000 liters of hollandaise sauce were stolen from a French restaurant in Tokyo.

15 ( +16 / -2 )

Is it possible that someone accidentally harvested from the wrong plot the day before?

If the field is close to the guys house, he'd probably have seen that, but also, in that case he'd have heard any heavy equipment working through the night to steal the spears. Could the theives have done it all stealthily by hand, in the dark of night? Asparaninga? Bloodly lot of work for 150,000 worth of produce with a limited shelf life.

Occam's razor, I'm thinking the field/green house was not so close to the house. If that's the case, look for other asparagus farmers and see if one hired someone to take his crop off and didn't supervise.

All bets off if it was a locked greenhouse that someone broke into.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

The math doesnt add up! My local (Central Tokyo) super market is selling 6 stalks of aspara for 650yen.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Not so funny if you are the farmer. This will get worse as the economy worsens and food prices rise. Farms have little security, and a thief can make a nice pile of money by selling the product cheaply.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

@Laguna

You made me lol !!! I love asparagus and was salivating as I read this article... Your comment brought me back down to earth !

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Oh no! Not the spears!!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I bet it was a group of those clever wild monkeys.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

khulifiMAY. 19, 2014 - 08:12AM JST Probably the thief is unemployed vegetarian with no fixed address ... still better than killing some one at rando

Explain.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

It has to be a thief with connections to the JA.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I hope this is a once off incident. In recent time Japan have many problems with petty crimes it not been an issue in the past. The law makers need to stamp out this kind of problem before it becomes an issue for Japan. Japanese has always been praise as one of the most honest people in the world. Let hope the government can keep the record clean for as long as it is possible. Go Japan!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Foods theft been going in for year, recall a few spates or rice, etc thefts.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@igloobuyer

khulifiMAY. 19, 2014 - 08:12AM JST Probably the thief is unemployed vegetarian with no fixed address ... still better than killing some one at rando

Explain

Because pretty much every crime-related story that has come out of Japan in recent years has involved an unemployed middle-aged make with no fixed address.

2 ( +6 / -3 )

There have been thefts of high-value produce items for years (cherries, for example, on a virtually annual basis).

The reported values, BTW, are usually what the farmer might have expected to realize from their sale. Sometimes the media decide to report the retail value, which is often considerably higher and makes for more sensational stories.

In Japan there are often several layers of middlemen, sometimes surprisingly many, each of whom adds a markup for profit and passes it on.

Quite large thefts of rice have been reported not infrequently, too, over the years.

This is the first time that I've heard of asparagus being stolen, however. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, as veggie prices rise (although it seems to me that, against all odds, some veggie and fruit retail prices have been dropping lately).

I always wonder how the rather large quantities of stolen produce are sold: I would expect most wholesalers to be at least somewhat curious about provenance. The existence of a fruit and veggies black market seems a bit bizarre to me.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@jojo in japan

The math doesnt add up! My local (Central Tokyo) super market is selling 6 stalks of aspara for 650yen.

Quite true. But you have to consider that those JPY 150000 is probably the net gain the farmer have. You have to consider that there are the logistics fees, and the gain the wholesales markets, and the gain of the supermarkets... and maybe some additional fees laying around....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Daniel Neagari (very apt name, BTW) You may be right about that being the net gain/profit for the farmer. It might be the expected income, however. At 15 yen/stalk, I'd say that's probably more likely.

I'm not a farmer, though, so I'm just speculating, based on the prices I see at my local JA outlet, where the farmers sell by bringing in their produce and collecting income only on what's sold, with a percentage of that going to the store/JA. What isn't sold even when prices are reduced is taken back by the farmer or disposed of.

This eliminates most wholesale and distribution costs (and the markups those would entail), so except for JA's cut and the profit for the farmer, it's a pretty good indication of the produce's worth to the farmer, IMO (as opposed to what it would be sold for at, say, a supermarket).

There's a term for that sort of selling (often used at thrift and craft shops, too), but it escapes me at the moment. It starts with a "C", IIRC.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

650 for 6 spears?!?!!? That's crazy! I get 4 for 150 yen. I am suddenly happier to be in the countryside.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@sakurala I spend about half of the week in the Saitam/Gunam border country, and half in metropolitan Tokyo. The differences in prices can be very striking.

Produce is, in my experience, almost always cheaper in the countryside, even at supermarkets.

On the other hand, fuel prices seem almost always to be considerably cheaper in Tokyo.

The term that I was looking for earlier, BTW, was "(on) consignment". That's the way that the JA outlets here work, and the prices are naturally lower because of it. There is essentially only the farmer and the retailer involved in getting the veggies/fruit to the customer, and there's less risk to the retailer.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

10,000 = 150,000 for the farmer, poor guy

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Sorry to the farmer, but that's the price you pay when the price you have to pay is way higher than it should be. If asparagus here were priced as it should be no one would have stolen what this guy was farming. Just two days ago I had to listen to an acquaintance drone on and on about how she spent a fortune on a few spears of white asparagus from Hokkaido and (therefore) how great it was.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

If someone were to get about 1,000 feet above this farm they will probably see that the missing crop is in the shape of a circle - Yes that's right folks, another Alien Asparagus Crop Circle!! Either way that poor farmer has lost out!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Follow the smelly pee.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

FightingViking, thanks - but remember: You can't steal hollandaise sauce. It's gotta be fresh from the saucepan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Balefire

Good comments. Thanks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@smith - This is not unique to Japan. Food is also stolen in the US, by the truckload at times.

@Balefire - Would be nice if all the wholesalers were honest, and most are, but there are always a few shady people in the produce business. They buy this stuff cheap, knowing damn well it's stolen, and sell along with their other stuff. Of course, a buyer might wonder why a company known for mediocre produce suddenly has a bunch of good asparagus shortly after an asparagus theft. Whether they'll say anything would depend on a lot of stuff - such as whether they might expect retribution.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@bruinfan Thank you.

@ommanteer Long ago when I managed restaurants, I had dealings with several local (Kanagawa, at the time) produce wholesalers/distributors. As you say, most are honest but there are always a few shady types. That's true in any industry, of course, but partly because of the perishable nature of the goods, and partly because of the difficulty in identifying one, say, asparagus stalk from another, it's probably easier to play fast and loose with veggies than with more traceable products, if one's moral compass is a bit off. The risk of being caught is probably perceived as being pretty low.

I just returned from a trip to a large chain supermarket in Kumagaya. Asparagus was 298 yen for four rather thin stalks, 98 yen for one stalk. There was no asparagus available at the local JA outlet for a price comparison.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

From what I've read about JA, they can be pretty ruthless at times towards other farmers if they don't tow the line. It's possible he pissed off the wrong people. Maybe he didn't want to buy any chemicals? The stuff grows wild so easily anyway.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Comanteer: "@smith - This is not unique to Japan. Food is also stolen in the US, by the truckload at times."

Quick question: how much for the same amount of asparagus in the US, since you bring it up?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

sighclopsMAY. 19, 2014 - 11:33AM JST @igloobuyer khulifiMAY. 19, 2014 - 08:12AM JST Probably the thief is unemployed vegetarian with no fixed address ... still better than killing some one at rando Explain

Because pretty much every crime-related story that has come out of Japan in recent years has involved an unemployed middle-aged make with no fixed address.

Really, we must be reading different news sources.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Laguna

Actually, it was mostly the asparagus themselves that caught my fancy... (in fact I prefer my own, home-made vinaigrette to go with them !) I needed a laugh though and hope you'll be back again with another one some day !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Jolly Green Giant did it !

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How much time does one need to cut 10,000 spears of asparagus. In the middle of the night. There must have been a well organized team of thieves. As CCTV installations are probably too expensive, farmers could set bear traps - I hear there are wild bears in the area. I am not suggesting the traps are meant to catch humans.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They will just grow back. They are quiet resilient. I have a section in my backyard with wild asparagus growing. We cut them during spring and they just keep growing back. Unless when we forget to cut them, then they become too big and old with flowers. It will then be the following year that can be harvested again.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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