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Olive oil thefts prompt Spanish supermarkets to close bottles

In Spain, the world’s largest producer of olive oil, supermarkets are taking drastic measures to safeguard their olive oil supply.

A sharp rise in theft incidents has forced retailers to close bottles of this kitchen essential, placing them alongside high-value items such as spirits, cosmetics and appliances.

The price of olive oil has soared 150% in the past two years in Spain due to a scorching drought in the south, which has severely affected the olive harvest.

Ruben Navarro, CEO of the Tu Super supermarket chain, shares his concern about the increase in theft. He states: “We are witnessing a significant increase in theft. Olive oil has become an ideal product to steal.”

To combat this problem, Tu Super has resorted to chaining large 5 liter bottles of olive oil and locking them with a padlock on the shelves. Navarro acknowledges that this measure may seem extreme, but it has proven effective in deterring thieves.

The increase in olive oil thefts is part of a wider theft problem in Spain. According to the country’s leading business organisation, CEOE, there was a 30% increase in repeat thefts targeting retailers in 2022 and a further 12% increase through 2023.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that the theft of objects worth less than 400 euros is not usually punished in Spain unless it is a repetition. This legal loophole allows thieves to exploit the situation, leading to an increase in theft incidents.

The increase in theft is also having a negative impact on supermarket employees. Ruben Navarro expresses his concern for his workers, stating that they live in fear after the robberies and often face abusive behavior from the thieves. This situation contributes to labor shortages in the retail sector as employees quit due to stressful and unsafe working conditions.

The alarming increase in olive oil thefts and shoplifting incidents highlights the challenges facing retailers in Spain. As supermarkets continue to implement security measures, government and law enforcement must also address the root causes of this problem to protect both businesses and consumers.

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