Farm machinery thefts have risen sharply in the last three months, rural insurer NFU Mutual has warned.

Organised gangs of thieves have been targeting large tractors, telehandlers and quad bikes.

Tim Price, rural affairs spokesman at NFU Mutual, told delegates at the NFU Conference that the rise was “very worrying” and urged farmers to remain vigilant.

In the past 12 months, 22 tractors have been recovered from Poland alone, which were stolen from UK farms.

“Tractor thefts have fallen by one-third since the peak in 2010. This trend was looking well established until a reverse in November, December and January when we had this sharp increase,” said Mr Price.

“We have been seeing big tractors stolen across all areas of the UK. Gangs of criminals have been targeting farm machinery in a big way.”

“We have been seeing big tractors stolen across all areas of the UK. Gangs of criminals have been targeting farm machinery in a big way.”
Tim Price, rural affairs spokesman at NFU Mutual

Mr Price could not find any explanation for the rise, but he said it was a valuable reminder that a more coordinated approach between police, border agencies, farmers and the media was necessary to tackle machinery thefts.

“Farmers must work together to notify other farmers and police of suspicious sightings,” he added.

“Social media, meetings, the Farm Watch scheme and the Crime Register can play a major role in spreading the word about theft intelligence.”

For the first nine months of 2012, tractor theft cost the insurer £4.5m, compared with £5m for the same period in 2011 and £7m in 2010.

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