HomeWorldSpanish supermarkets lock up olive oil as shoplifting surges

Spanish supermarkets lock up olive oil as shoplifting surges


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MADRID, Nov 20 (Reuters) – In Spain, the world’s biggest
olive oil producer, supermarkets are locking up bottles of the
staple cooking oil as prices surge and theft increases.

One-litre bottles of extra-virgin olive oil are selling for
as much as 14.5 euros ($15.77) in some supermarkets, propelling
olive oil into the category of products retailers fit with
security tags, alongside spirits, cosmetics and appliances.

“We are seeing a major surge in shoplifting,” said Ruben
Navarro, the CEO of Tu Super supermarket chain, which operates
30 stores in Spain’s Andalucia region. “Olive oil has become an
ideal product for them to steal.”

Olive oil prices, now officially at 8 euros a litre, have
surged by 150% over the past two years in Spain as a scorching
drought in the south has dented the olive harvest. Organised
criminal gangs are stealing the oil to resell, Navarro said.

Since September, Tu Super has been chaining large 5-litre
bottles of olive oil together and padlocking them to shelves to
prevent theft.

“It is a crazy, extreme measure, but it has worked,” Navarro

Tu Super is not the only one tightening security: in some
Carrefour and Auchan supermarkets in Madrid, one-litre bottles
are fitted with security tags that have to be removed by staff.

STC, a Spanish company providing anti-theft solutions to
retailers, saw a 12-fold increase in orders this summer from
supermarkets for devices to protect olive oil bottles, managing
partner Salvador Canones told Reuters.

Spanish police have also uncovered thefts of olive oil from
mills and in October arrested two people as part of an
investigation into the theft of 56 tonnes of extra virgin olive

Families in Spain typically buy olive oil in bulk for
cooking. Among the world’s biggest consumers of olive oil, they
have already significantly cut back: sales volumes of
extra-virgin olive oil fell by 17% in the 12 months to
September, according to NielsenIQ.

While thefts of olives and oil have increased especially,
the measures by supermarkets also reflect a broader shoplifting
surge. Spain’s top business organisation, CEOE, said there was a
30% increase in repeated thefts targeting retailers in 2022, and
a further 12% so far in 2023.

In Spain, thefts of items worth less than 400 euros are not
punished unless it is a repeat offence.

Navarro said thieves are taking advantage of lower
numbers of staff in stores and shoplifters’ often abusive
behaviour towards workers is exacerbating the labour shortage.

“Our own workers live in fear after the robberies… some of
them even end up resigning from their jobs,” he said.
($1 = 0.9195 euros)
(Reporting by Corina Rodriguez, Editing by Helen Reid and
Elaine Hardcastle)

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