MALLORCA – A 53-year-old Spanish man is being investigated for the alleged theft of as much as 40,000 kilos of carob beans.
He is said to have sold these beans for €16,000. The Guardia Civil is investigating this case after a Marratxí (Mallorca) farm owner filed a report. A team specialising in rural thefts and crimes against agricultural holdings came to this case after being informed of the report.
After several inspections and conversations with residents, it was determined that a vehicle had been parked on the access road to the farm where the theft had occurred. The farm covers 200 hectares of land and has more than 300 carob trees.
After the owner of the vehicle was located, he stated that he was hired by another individual, who is currently the subject of the investigation.
The stolen carob beans were sold at a cooperative in the town of Binissalem, for which more than €16,000 was received.
Carob is popular. In 2022 alone, more than 150,000 tons were stolen, mainly in the regions of Valencia and Andalucia. The price for a kilo of beans has therefore risen from 30 cents to €2. The wave of thefts is so bad that the beans are increasingly being stolen directly from the trees instead of thieves emptying warehouses.
Poor man’s chocolate
The carob tree is still associated among the elderly as a product of the post-Civil War famine. The so-called “poor man’s chocolate” was produced from the fruit. It was very popular in the Mediterranean regions where the trees grow a lot. Its value on the market was very low until recently. Few farmers grew trees that grow quickly and can withstand drought. The trees were planted in ‘marginal zones’, in the dead space next to high-demand crops such as orange trees.
Waiting lists for plants at nurseries
However, within a few years, the demand for carob increased so much that carob plants could no longer be found in nurseries. Growers even have waiting lists to obtain the trees, writes La Vanguardia.
From animal feed to superfood
Until not so long ago, carob was only used for animal feed, and dogs also enjoy chewing the beans. The beans have now been discovered by major food companies such as Nestlé, which use carob as a thickener for ice cream, baby food, and derivatives.
In addition, carob has now been ‘discovered’ by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries due to its excellent properties for treating a wide range of diseases. This spectacular increase in demand is due to the shortage of plantations and products. This has led to the ‘spectacular’ price inflation. Carob is currently much more profitable than any other crop in the Mediterranean.
Potential health benefits
Carob is considered a superfood with several potential health benefits. First of all, carob is rich in nutrients. It contains vitamins A, B, and D. It is also a source of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. The beans are also rich in fibre, which can aid digestion and promote feelings of fullness. This is beneficial for people who want to control their weight. In addition, carob has antioxidant properties. Unlike some other foods, carob does not contain oxalic acids, which can interfere with the body’s absorption of minerals such as calcium and zinc.
Several carob products are on the market, such as carob powder and carob syrup. These can be used in recipes as a healthier alternative to cocoa.