Thieves in Hawaii are stealing cans of Spam then selling them on the streets for quick cash to buy drugs, according to authorities.

Ra Long, who owns a convenience store in Honolulu, says shoplifters have typically targeted alcohol in the past, but recently more cans of Spam have gone missing.

"I mean you try to keep an eye on it, but if they run, you just can’t leave the counter and chase them," the shopkeeper told Hawaii News Now. "So you just got to take the hit."

Police in Honolulu said they had a report of a man lifting a case of the canned meat from a store earlier this month.

Kimo Carvalho, a spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, said people are stealing Spam because it is easy to sell: "It’s quick cash for quick drug money."

Hawaiians eat millions of cans of Spam a year, the nation’s highest per-capita consumption of the processed meat, which is a mixture of pork shoulder, ham, sugar and salt.

The state’s love affair with Spam began during the Second World War, when rationing created the right conditions for the rise of a meat that needs no refrigeration and has a long shelf-life.

Ann Kondo Corum, who grew up in Hawaii in the 1950s and has written several Spam-inspired cookbooks, has attributed Spam’s popularity partly to Hawaii’s large Asian population.

"Asians eat a lot of rice. Spam is salty, and it goes well with rice," she told The Associated Press.

(c) Sky News 2017: Wham, bam, no more Spam: Thieves’ target nation’s favourite in Hawaii