National Farmers' Union (NFU) Mutual has released its annual rural crime report and have estimated that rural theft cost the UK £43.3 million in 2020, a 20% decrease on the previous year.

While the number of theft claims went down, thieves got more bang for their buck as the average cost rose to £4,425 – up from £4,128 in 2019.

Lockdown movement restrictions, police rural crime teams and beefed-up farm security helped to curb crime over the pandemic, with most parts of the UK seeing an overall decrease in cost.

However, skilled and highly-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards during the pandemic, stealing tractor GPS systems, high value quad bikes and ATVs worth millions of pounds.

Cost of thefts

The cost of agricultural vehicle theft claims reported to NFU Mutual remained high at £9.1 million as gangs capitalised on the countryside.

Agricultural vehicle theft saw only a 2% drop in cost from 2019, still well above 2018’s total of £7.4 million.

While livestock theft decreased by 25% to an estimated £2.3 million, the South West region saw the cost of rustling rise by over a third.

Rob Taylor, Wales rural and wildlife crime coordinator said:

"Having had a dedicated rural crime team for eight years in north Wales, we have seen first-hand the impact a theft or a livestock attack can have on a farmer - both financially and emotionally.

Farms can be seen as easy targets to the opportunist or hardened criminal, but by understanding the environment and the criminals’ methods, we are striking back.

"We’re utilising the latest technology and providing education to help prevent these offences.

"We have pioneered Future Farms Cymru as a concept project, and we are now putting it into practice to do even more to prevent crime and catch offenders.

"There’s an array of innovative equipment now available that can prevent crimes like quad bike theft, or even alert homeowners of any sudden drop in their diesel or heating oil storage tanks.

We have also championed establishing a brand new livestock act to help prevent dog attacks in our countryside.

"We are hopeful that can become effective this year."