POLICE have stepped up efforts to tackle chestnut thieves operating around the Serrania de Ronda.
As part of a crack-down on escalating levels of chestnut theft, police claim to have thwarted six gangs in the process of stealing the crop.
In total, 24 arrests were made across the four villages of Igualeja, Cartajima, Parauta and Farajan.
Chestnut rustling is an increasingly serious business, with the chestnut harvest representing the main source of income for many local farmers. Ronda’s chestnuts are considered some of the best in the country.
This season is expected to be one of the best harvests in recent years, with the Genal Valley alone producing around 4million kilograms at around €2 per kilo.
“There have been surprisingly few worms this year,” said one farmer. “The quality is excellent thanks to the weather.”
Some 80% of the chestnuts from the Malaga area are exported, the majority (65%) to Italy.
The move comes following the decision to tighten security on mango farms in the Axarquia, which have also seen widespread theft.
Two men were last month arrested for stealing over 300 kilograms of mangos – with a market value of over €500 –from a farm in Velez-Malaga.
Farmers are being encouraged to report any suspicious activity to police.
Chestnuts are of great importance to Andalucian culture, with many towns and villages holding ‘chestnut festivals’ throughout November.