AUG 19, 2011: Machinery and livestock worth close to £50m was stolen from British farms during 2010, according to a survey by NFU Mutual – a rise of 17% on the previous year.

Britain’s largest rural insurer has warned criminals are systematically targeting Britain’s farms with the costs of tractor, livestock and oil thefts all rising sharply. Tractor theft claims costs have increased 64% in two years and livestock rustling has also re-emerged as a problem with the suspicion being that this is happening as austerity measures bite. During the first six months of 2011, 142 rustling claims were reported to NFU Mutual – compared with 156 in the whole of 2010. North-East England was the worst affected area in 2010, followed by Northern Ireland, North-West England and the Midlands Tractor theft remains a major problem for farmers, with a significant increase in the number of tractors being stolen and exported from channel ports to final destinations across the globe. The number of tractor theft claims dealt with by NFU Mutual rose by 8% in 2010 while the cost of claims rose 21% reflecting the trend for thieves to target expensive tractors. There has also been a dramatic increase in claims for farm diesel and domestic heating oil since the cost of oil surged at the end of 2010. Following price increases, claims for stolen heating oil rocketed 264% in January 2011. The survey also highlighted an increased demand for high-priced items that are portable and easy to sell on. The theft of power tools such as chainsaws, electric drills and lawnmowers is common. “Whether it’s the recession, tighter security in towns, or the rise in oil, meat and scrap metal prices, countryside people are feeling the blight of rural crime on their land,” said Lindsay Sinclair, NFU Mutual Chief Executive. “Country people are not taking this scourge lying down. Across the country new rural security initiatives are springing up … we’ve already seen that, by working with the police forces and manufacturers, tractor theft and organised rural crime can be tackled head-on.”