A new report from logistics security services provider FreightWatch International shows the total number of cargo thefts in the United States last year was close to the record set in 2011 — and the number of stolen meat shipments continued to climb.
Shippers beware: FreightWatch predicts meat, poultry and seafood will be popular with thieves in 2013, making up a growing portion of the food and beverage category, which it says will again be the type cargo most likely to be stolen.
For 2012, FreightWatch recorded 940 total cargo thefts, only 0.53 percent lower than the record-setting number for 2011, but it expects the number to increase in the coming weeks because of delayed reporting.
Meat thefts started to grow dramatically in 2011, as the increasing cost of feed grains translated into higher meat prices. In all of 2010, there were 24 incidents of meat and chicken stolen, and in each of cases, thieves stole the loaded trailers.
The first quarter of 2011 saw seven such thefts, spiking to 17 in the second quarter, an increase of 59 percent. There were a total of 47 meat thefts in 2011 and 45 reported in 2012.
FreightWatch said there is a direct correlation between the price of corn and meat thefts. The spike in the price of meat causes a matching increase in its desirability by thieves.
“Meat prices are not driven solely by feed prices, and domestic supply and demand,” FreightWatch said in a special report on meat thefts. “They also are affected by such factors as reserve stock, foreign export demand, foreign import supply and others. These factors are currently aligning in a way that will likely drive the price — and thus the theft and attempted theft — of meats to new highs in the coming months.
The higher number of thefts “clearly demonstrates that the increase in the value of meats is not going unnoticed by cargo theft rings operating in the United States. With factors pointing toward a continued rise in meat prices, and thereby meat thefts, well into 2013, FreightWatch recommends taking all necessary measures to ensure the security of meat cargo in transit.”
Food and drinks, which experienced 176 of the 940 total cargo thefts in 2012, has been the most stolen product type since 2010, according to the report.
California saw 51 food/drinks thefts (29 percent of all thefts in this category), while Florida came in second with 45 events (26 percent). Texas was third with 21 (12 percent) and New Jersey, fourth with 12 thefts (7 percent). Combined, these four states accounted for 73 percent of all food/drinks thefts last year.
In addition to meat products, the commonly stolen products in the food/drinks category are energy drinks, soft drinks and produce, with an average value per loss of $73,673.
If thefts of high-value meat shipments continues to rise, industry safeguards and procedures to guard against theft is expected to follow.
The pharmaceutical industry was the headline of the annual theft report for several years until a serious effort by the industry to combat the losses reversed the trend. Employee training, added security hardware and added security services were used to keep cargoes safe.
The pharmaceutical industry last year saw 30 reported cargo thefts with an average loss of $168,219. In 2011, the average loss was more than $555,500, and in 2010, losses were the highest across all categories, averaging $3.7 million per incident. The value of pharmaceutical losses in 2012 was 4.4 percent of the 2010 total.
Pharmaceutical companies are enjoying both the lowest number of incidents as well as the lowest average value per incident recorded by this industry since the beginning of FreightWatch data collection.
Of the 30 pharmaceutical thefts in 2012, seven (23 percent) occurred in Texas, primarily Houston; four (13 percent) occurred in Georgia; while Florida, Michigan and New Jersey had three thefts each (10 percent each).
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