Greek authorities have announced that looters from Albania are regularly crossing the border at night and stealing tons of Greek mountain tea and other herbs and medicinal plants, which are then being sold for export to pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies worldwide.
They mostly pick mountain tea (tsai tou vounou), hawthorn and primrose from North Western Greece, but according to Greek media reports, they are destroying rare and endangered species along the way.
These herbs are sold for export to pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies worldwide, a business that nets Albanian wholesalers tens of millions of dollars annually.
According to reports, it is destitute Albanians crossing the mountains on horses and donkeys, due to herb shortages in Albania caused by freezing temperatures last winter.
The plants are usually uprooted, as the looters are quickly trying to escape, which stops natural regeneration and is causing major issues for Greek growers.
Two weeks ago, two Albanian men aged 49 and 61 were arrested at the Greek border, after being found with three bags of mountain tea, weighing 25 kilos.
Some of the ironwort and other herbs that grow in Greece are now threatened with extinction and there is a complete ban on their collection.
Greek authorities are increasingly making arrests and there have also been talks of cameras being installed to help control the border and illegal plant picking.