NFU Mutual, which provides cover for more than 70% of UK farmers, says there has been a 35% increase in the value of tractor claims to the end of January over the same period last year.The surge marks a reversal of the downward trend seen since the end of 2012.
Agricultural theft is not restricted to large farm machinery – thefts of quads have also increased, along with the disappearance of telescopic loaders and utility vehicles.
The cost of such crimes can be huge – six tractors worth £30,000 or more each were stolen in January 2013.
Farmers had seen a period of falling tractor thefts since incidents peaked in 2010. With more intense action being taken to increase security and policing, crime did seem to drop going by claims figures.
Makers have been doing their bit by introducing unique keys to most tractors. The CESAR marking system has also become widespread on many new models and can be retro-fitted to older machines.
Clive Harris, who heads up NFU Mutual’s vehicle security initiative, says the sudden increase in thefts of farm vehicles is worrying. It is particularly bad news as tractor theft fell by 32% in the first 11 months of 2012.
The most commonly stolen tractors are those worth £25,000 or more, and particularly models with front-end loaders, he explains.
Victims of rural crime face emotional and financial impacts on their lives and fortunes, Mr Harris adds.
NFU Mutual advises farmers to take steps to protect their vehicles and equipment.
The firm recommends steps such as CESAR marking, immobilisers and tracker devices, security lighting, keeping gates closed and locked and keeping all vehicles and equipment out of sight and locked away.