By CRAIG McTEAR
JOHN FORRESTER is dumbfounded someone would be rotten enough to play around with people's lives.
The managing director of Macksville-based Nambucca Macnuts, and Valla growers, are reeling from a crime wave which has netted thieves up to nine tonnes of macadamia nuts worth close to $40,000.
At least five properties have been hit in daring raids during the past two months and John suspects the culprit is closer to home than people think.
"No-one is game to point the bone, but, in reality, it would have to be an inside job," John said.
"I've got no proof, but I also believe a couple of tonnes went missing last year."
In the latest heist, two tonnes of nuts valued at up to $8000 were seized from a silo on an East-West Road plantation some time this week. Two utilities or something bigger would have been needed to cart them away.
On almost all occasions, the intruders have been taking nuts while they're still on the ground awaiting harvest.
John figures they're using manual means instead of noisy harvesters, they're pouncing on holdings when owners are absent, and they know where to go to get the best nuts.
"There's a big shortage of macadamia nuts globally. Therefore, they wouldn't have any trouble getting rid of them," he said.
"There are shysters who work on the black market. Also, high prices are being fetched for nuts.
"These thieves are not only robbing our landholders and shareholders in the co-operative, but it affects the continuity of work we can give people.
"We're a very parochial company and we need all the support we can get. We've got enough elements against us like drought and floods.
"If it's to become a massive pilfer, it would certainly have a dramatic impact on this company and on the area."
It would be a happy day indeed when those responsible were caught, he said.
One Valla macadamia grower, who lost up to 200 kilograms of nuts three weeks ago, admitted to feeling edgy.
"It's a bit scary how no-one has heard or seen these people taking our nuts," the grower said.