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The theft of truffles, a scourge during the holiday season

2020-12-31T10:59:16.118Z

The “black diamond” culture is undermined by repeated thefts, particularly around Christmas and New Years. The producers, at their wit's end, hope for help from the police and the courts to curb the phenomenon.



Like every year, the truffle has a good chance of being found on certain tables for the holidays.

The black truffle, nicknamed “

black diamond

”, is an exceptional product in gastronomy, renowned for its subtle taste, the cost of which varies according to the quality.

It trades between 700 and 1000 euros per kilo.

It is the subject of increased surveillance during the holidays, when thefts multiply, despite the mobilization of the gendarmeries, in close collaboration with the producers.

In the Drôme, 15 thefts of truffles have been declared to the gendarmerie since November 2020. A gendarme referent in truffles in this department confirms in

Figaro,

recurrent attacks of truffles.

The booty is estimated at "

50 kilos per year

".

A figure, however, underestimated because many truffle growers do not file a complaint for fear of reprisals.

Read also: The most expensive truffles at the opening of the first market in Périgord

The despair of truffles is great in the face of the multiplication of thefts each year.

Despite day and night surveillance of the truffle fields, the police are struggling to stop these thefts, which have become increasingly violent.

"

These bandits, if they see that we are afraid, they take advantage of it,

" said a truffle from Drôme, who wants to remain discreet.

When the looters are identified by the gendarmerie, justice condemns them to fines of a few hundred euros.

The truffle growers are not compensated.

Many thieves are indeed insolvent.

Justice is poorly done in France.

Sanctions are not enforced.

Thieves are not afraid to start over

”, laments a truffle farmer, poached every year.

More and more organized gangs

The world of truffles is quite secret.

It is rare that truffle farmers agree to speak because they do not have enough evidence and are threatened or assaulted in their homes.

Tired of these looting, some have agreed to confide in

Le Figaro.

All the victims preferred to remain anonymous, in order to protect their culture.

For several years, the poaching of truffles has gone from theft to highly organized thefts, carried out by gangs, sometimes equipped with hunting weapons.

According to a retired truffle farmer from Vaucluse contacted by Le

Figaro

, “

the main truffle thieves are people who work in a network.

They then sell the stolen truffles at low prices.

“Out of season, when producers start watering their truffles in July / August, criminals come to spot those that are the subject of more care.

We can't let ourselves be looted like that.

We have cameras to film them, but they are hooded,

”explains the Vaucluse truffle farmer, who has already caught thieves twice.

The gendarmes have few resources.

Thus, the truffle growers are urged to defend themselves: they do not hesitate to shoot in the air to frighten them,

”says

the angry producer

to

Figaro

.

Sometimes violent thefts

In high season, “

every week

,

at night, they will steal kilos of truffles from the plantations

,” he laments.

There is violence and the fact that the police remain ineffective in dealing with this problem will surely lead to serious events.

Surveillance cameras are not enough, because they themselves are taken away by thieves.

According to the president of the Vaucluse truffle farmers' union, there have already been “

a dozen thefts in the department since the start of the season.

The flights are done at nightfall or early in the morning.

Some make dozens of holes, others remove the truffles with rakes and shovels.

The trees and the roots are then destroyed, which compromises the harvests for the following years. ”

Despite this painful observation, this truffle does not give up: “

There is anger rising.

I prefer to work upstream with the gendarmerie, in order to avoid the worst situations. ”

The technology of the gendarmes is over time more and more sophisticated: with facial recognition, thieves can be identified even if they are hooded.

In the middle of the night, the criminals now go to several in the truffle fields, very equipped, with truffle dogs.

Recently, in Drôme, a truffle farmer had the misfortune of crossing paths with some of them.

According to the

Dauphiné Libéré

, on December 13, “

a truffle producer supervising his estate came face to face with three suspected thieves and their two dogs.

These individuals were armed and fired one or more shots 'into the ground.'

“Contacted by Le

Figaro

, the traumatized truffle farmer prefers to remain silent.

Gendarmes on the war footing

The Drôme gendarmes are trying to come to the aid of the truffle growers.

Their objective is to prevent tragedies from occurring, such as that of Grignan in December 2010. A producer, exasperated, has lost his temper.

Armed to watch over his truffle, he killed the man who had come to steal his truffles.

A Drôme chief warrant officer is now trained and specialized in these flights around the "black diamond".

Close to the truffle growers, he has been working on these files for ten years: “

To counter thieves, you have to put up cameras, give information, identify suspicious vehicles and call us.

Of course, we must fight, but above all we must not carry out an armed patrol, in order to avoid a tragedy.

"

Like Vaucluse and Drôme, the truffle growers of Touraine are not spared during these holiday periods either.

According to

La Nouvelle République

, thefts took place on the night of December 26 to 27.

Two burglaries also took place in a village in the south of the Indre-et-Loire department.

The thieves "

mainly stole electrical equipment belonging to the association of the truffle market

", reports the regional daily.

They also stole several kilos of truffles from a trader overnight.

The investigation by the gendarmes is underway.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2020-12-31

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