Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ian Marshall has stressed that rural crime is becoming more and more of an issue following confirmation from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual that the value of stolen goods from farms have cost Northern Ireland’s rural economy a startling £3.9 million in 2013, which is up 15% from £3.4 million in 2012.

President Ian Marshall said: “The rural crime figures published today (Monday 11th August) indicate that this is a major issue which must be dealt with head on. The unfortunate reality is that farmers are having valuable livestock and machinery stolen on a regular basis which is having a devastating impact on their businesses and families.”

He said that the cost of livestock theft, in particular, has risen by a staggering 25% across the UK as thieves target sheep and cattle, making 2013 one of the worst years on record. “Furthermore, a surge in cattle and sheep rustling in Northern Ireland has ranked us as the most seriously affected part of the UK for livestock theft. These statistics however won’t shock farmers who know from experience that theft from farm yards and livestock from fields is an all-too common and costly occurrence.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of being vigilant and would advise farmers to take the necessary precautions to ensure tools, machinery, livestock, equipment and property are secure. The UFU continue to work closely with the PSNI on this important issue and have stressed repeatedly that more needs to be done to ensure consistency across Northern Ireland. In fact the UFU are organising a major rural crime conference which will be held at the Crumlin Road Gaol on the 4th November 2014. The aim of the conference, which will involve the PSNI, DARD and Garda Siochana, is to raise the awareness of rural and agri-crime, share examples of best practice in dealing with this important issue and to enhance working relationships across all stakeholders.”