The Hague (AFP) – Dutch cheese makers have been hit by a spate of top-end cheese thefts, prompting a dairy federation to warn farmers Friday to beef up security around their storerooms.
“We’ve never had a problem before last year, when at least six farmers were burgled and had their cheeses stolen,” said Irene van de Voort, chairwoman of the Dutch Dairy Farmers’ Producer Federation (BBZ).
“We are worried about the situation and have advised our members to increase security,” she told AFP.
Respected Dutch daily tabloid the NRC reported Friday that at least 8.5 tonnes of cheese valued at almost 90,000 euros ($97,800) had been carted off during the heists.
The paper said the largest theft happened in the small southern town of Hellouw near Den Bosch, where some 200 of the famous round yellow discs, worth about 26,500 euros, were stolen from a cheesemaker in one night.
Elsewhere in the southwestern city of Bergen op Zoom, some 150 cheeses — each weighing around 12 kilogrammes (26.4 lbs) — disappeared.
But exactly who is taking the cheese remains a mystery, with no clues left behind.
And police officials, who declined to be named, said the thefts were being investigated as isolated incidents.
Cheese farmer Marjo Huijsmans told NRC it seemed the thieves knew exactly how to pick out the best top-quality cheeses.
“They left the newly-made cheeses and took a selection of the ripening cheeses,” she said.
The stolen cheeses were most certainly destined for the export market, said Onno Boersma of the Dutch Dairy Trade Association.
“Firstly each cheese is stamped with a number, so you can see exactly where the cheese comes from. Also, the Dutch cheese sector is not that big… if you tried to sell it, it will be spotted immediately,” he told AFP.
Making such cheese “is a specialised skill and it takes special knowledge to make it. It’s a very valuable product,” he stressed.
“These farmers are hardworking people, who not only have to milk their cows but hand-make their cheese. Imagine how frustrating it is when you realise that your hard work has disappeared.”