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Island honesty stalls plagued by mikan thiefs

November 9, 2022

Elderly farmers on the Tobishima islands are getting increasingly frustrated by people taking their cut-price produce from honest stalls without paying.

Roadside honesty stalls offering local produce are a common sight in the Japanese countryside and stalls selling seasonal citrus fruits can be found throughout the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. As well as a great bargain, they are a symbol of Japan’s trusting society and low crime rates. Local farmers, however, know that not all of us live up to this ideal.

Chugoku Shinbun newspaper recently reported that farmers have been reporting by thefts at unmanned sales stands on the Akinada islands (commonly referred to as the Tobishima islands), with some resorting to installing security cameras. The newspaper quotes one desolate farmer as saying, “We sell at a very low profit margin and it is a heavy burden to install cameras to prevent theft.”

An 80-year-old woman who grows mandarin oranges with her husband on the island of Toyoshima sells a variety of fruits depending on their season from late September to March at a small, unmanned stand with a sign asking customers to drop money into a box provided to supplement income from the local agricultural cooperative. They charge 200 yen for a 1kg bag of oranges – not much more than the cost of a canned drink from a vending machine.

She says that on some days, as much as 3,000 yen’s worth of produce is taken without being paid for. It’s actually nothing new as she says theft has been an issue for about 20 years. They haven’t lost much more produce than usual so far this year, but as farm work gets harder and harder as they age, “I feel like I can’t stand it,” she says.

The local Tobishima Citrus Club helped set up a surveillance camera in late October and they are in contact with the police. A representative of the organization says that he is aware of similar incidents on the island of Osakishimo-jima, with 4 farmers – all over 70 years old – loosing a total of over 100,000 yen’s worth of produce each season.

Another 80-year-old woman who is struggling to carry a 20kg container of mandarin oranges on the steep slopes on which the island’s oranges are grown says, “After a year of carefully tending the fruit, I finally harvested them. I want people to pay for the harvest and enjoy it with a good feeling”.

Source: Chugoku Shinbun

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