It’s all gone up in smoke – all $40-million of it. That’s the estimated value of a huge cannabis crop seized and destroyed by NSW Police in the Mid North Coast region.
A search late last week of three farming properties near Taree, about 300km north of Sydney, yielded an astonishing 13,353 cannabis plants in grow houses.
Fourteen people, all Vietnamese nationals, have been arrested and charged in what police say is possibly the largest cannabis seizure in the country since the 1970s.
New crop grows every 12 weeks
“The biggest difference is that in 1975 outdoor crops were seasonal, so criminal groups were restricted to one crop a year, whereas these grow houses are weather-controlled enabling the harvest of new plants every 12 weeks or so,” said Drug and Firearms Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Watson.
According to police, a total of 33 people have now been arrested and cannabis with an estimated street value of around $100-million has been seized and destroyed in recent operations.
These form part of an ongoing investigation into a criminal syndicate behind the cultivation and supply of cannabis on a massive scale.
Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, the State Crime Commander, assed that the latest arrests were important and would cause a reverberation in the drug supply market across New South Wales”.
Criminals are buying up farms
According to police, there has been an increase in efforts by criminals to acquire land from distressed farmers and then use the properties for large-scale cultivation. They hoped the crops would remain undetected amidst the legitimate fruit and vegetable crops being grown.
“The land is easily acquired, with obviously a lot of farmers under stress, responding to an individual buying a property or a parcel of land with a bag of cash,” Smith said.
“We are urging farmers and other people in rural districts, that if there are issues similar in nature to this, or crops or unusual people moving in, that they contact Crime Stoppers.”