Wednesday, November 23, 2011

There's Gold In Them Thar Trees

And where there is gold, there is soon to be thieves:

SAVANNAH, Ga. Hired by farmers as a private security guard, Brooks Rucker patrols thousands of acres of Georgia farmland on the lookout for thieves toting 5-gallon buckets.

He rarely comes up empty handed. Since the fall harvest began Oct. 1, Rucker says, he and two other guards have caught more than 160 culprits in the act. Some they let go. Others get handed over to police. Either way, he's recovered thousands of dollars' worth of stolen goods: mounds of pecans snatched from his employers' trees.

It's not just pecan pies and other nutty goodies driving demand so close to the holidays. Prices have soared as China has developed an insatiable appetite for pecans, while withering drought in the southern U.S. has limited supplies.

In Georgia, the nation's top pecan producer, farmers and authorities say criminals can earn a tidy profit by stealing the nuts - worth $1.50 or more per pound in smaller quantities. Pecan grower Bucky Geer estimates a single 5-gallon bucketful is worth about $38.

At work my supervisor and I were talking about pecans just this very morning, remarking on the high prices and pondering supply and demand. It's not going to get better soon, either, because the trees need years of growth before they start producing in commercial quantities.

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