Counterfeit pesticides, incursions by activists, and livestock theft are all among the rural crimes on the rise in the UK.
According to NFU Mutual the annual cost to farmers is almost £50m – up from £39m three years ago.
Speaking at the NFU’s annual conference, Kreseda Smith and Richard Byrne from Harper Adams University highlighted the current trends in rural crime.
They warned of an increase in the availability of counterfeit pesticides, which are estimated to account for 14% of the EU’s supplies.
Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in identifying market shortages and matching supply with demand.
Incidents of modern slavery are also on the rise – especially as Brexit leads to an expected reduction in the availability of migrant labour. An increase in trafficking of vulnerable people is also predicted once freedom of movement ends.
Livestock theft is also escalating, with losses estimated at £2.5m last year.
Incursions by animal rights activists are also escalating, with social media and GPS positioning making it easier for them to target farmers – especially those who use the internet to market their produce.
New farm security guide
The NFU launched a new farm security guide at the conference, designed to help farmers reduce their exposure to rural crime and encouraging them to report all incidents.
NFU chief land management adviser Sam Durham encouraged farmers to report crime: “Rural crime often goes underreported,” he said, “part of that is due to fears of violence and intimidation.”
Available to download from the NFU’s website, or by contacting local offices for a print version, the leaflet sets out detailed advice on securing property, removing temptation and reducing the payoff for criminals.
It also offers guidance on how best to report rural crime, such as machinery theft, hare coursing, livestock worrying and fly-tipping.
The NFU has also relaunched its rural crime hotline, run by CrimeStoppers, which offers an anonymous service to report rural crime.