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Freight crime in Brazil soared in the third quarter this year, as criminals took advantage of rising demand for under-the-counter goods from citizens who have seen their spending power slashed in the wake of the country’s economic crisis.

Supply chain security specialists FreightWatch International (FWI) said that the state of Sao Paulo alone had seen a 38% year-on-year increase in recorded cargo theft in the third quarter, while for the first nine months of the year, it was up 56%.

By far the most common stolen goods are food and drink, up 61% in Sao Paulo state between August 2015 and August this year, as Brazil’s deepening recession hit households hard. And the fact that food and drink shipments tend to have less security than hi-tech or pharma cargo also makes them an attractive target.

“Gangs have adapted to increasingly successful police operations, and this has likely led to them targeting the less secure products,” said FWI.

It added that black market goods had been in great demand “due to Brazil’s economic crisis”.

“The high unemployment rate may have given rise to a market ready to absorb products of suspicious origin, sold at low prices on the streets,” FWI said.

Another factor in rising crime levels in the third quarter is that it coincided with the coffee harvest, and thefts of coffee shipments have increased significantly, leading producers to switch supply chain strategies as thieves have been attracted by the high price commanded by the commodity.

“The fact is that producers have been attempting to protect themselves by hiring shipment escorts. They have also decided not to store processed coffee on farms, but rather process the beans and ship them on the same day,” FWI said.

The other main freight crime hotspot in the country continues to be Rio de Janeiro state. In fact, between them, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro account for 82% of all recorded cargo theft in the country.

In the first nine months of the year, cargo crime in Rio de Janeiro increased by 31% over the same period in 2015.

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