CRIME

Cereal killer, or how to steal 900 tons of wheat without anyone noticing

Thieves would have needed more than 30 trucks to carry off heist in small Spanish village

On Saturday, May 13, employees at the ACOR agricultural cooperative in Mojados, a small village in central Spain, were amazed to discover that over 900 tons of wheat had disappeared from their storage facility . “I talked to the insurance company expert and he told me that a theft of this scope is not normal,” said Esteban Sanz, the cooperative’s crop director.

The ACOR cooperative near Valladolid.
The ACOR cooperative near Valladolid.ACOR

Sanz and his colleagues called the Civil Guard, who showed up at the crime scene within five minutes. “They came straight away, but there wasn’t a single kilogram left inside,” he recalls. The lost revenue could be as high as €240,000.

The police investigation remains open, but for now little is known about who made off with the cereal and when. What seems particularly puzzling is how the thieves pulled it off without raising any eyebrows.

Taking 900 tons of wheat does not make much sense since its market price is much lower than other products

Esteban Sanz, ACOR

“They could have perfectly well done it in broad daylight because nearby companies are used to seeing our clients’ trucks coming and going all day long,” says Sanz. The grain was a high-protein variety that is typically used in baked goods and stored for several months in silos that the cooperative rents out depending on demand.

“Save for periodic supervision by technicians and the company that fumigates the wheat every so often, the silo is permanently closed,” explains Sanz.

The storage facility is located on the N-601 road, a busy thoroughfare, at a spot just a few kilometers from the cooperative’s factory in Olmedo. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. Normally you see very small cases of theft representing half a truck trailer at the most,” says Sanz.

Spain faces a 50% drop in wheat production this year.
Spain faces a 50% drop in wheat production this year.Reuters

At ACOR, the main hypothesis is that the grain will end up at flour mills, animal feed factories or private livestock farms. “Although it is not designed for consumption by animals, any livestock outfit could feed its animals with this grain,” says Sanz. “Taking 900 tons of wheat does not make much sense since its market price is much lower than other food products like sugar, for instance.”

This year, Spain’s wheat crop will be around 10 million tons, roughly half as much as last season, according to estimates by the Agrarian Association of Young Farmers. The region of Castilla y León, where the theft took place, contributes half the nation’s total production, and this year it is expecting losses of up to 80%.

“In recent years there’s been a rise in theft at farms and crop fields, especially in Aragón and Castilla-La Mancha, but not inside warehouses or factories,” said a spokesperson at Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias de España (Agro-Food Cooperatives of Spain).

Sanz hopes that the Civil Guard will soon get to the bottom of the theft at their cooperative – a heist worthy of Hollywood, because taking away 900 tons of wheat would have required at least 30 trucks with a trailer capacity of 26 tons each.

English version by Susana Urra.

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