Stolen farm equipment is being used as “criminal currency” across the world after it leaves the north-east.
That’s the claim from insurance experts, NFU Mutual (NFUM), which is is warning farmers to step up security as organised gangs increasingly target agricultural vehicles and machinery.
Just last week, a forklift, vintage tractor parts and other machinery worth about £12,500 in total were stolen from properties on the road from Cammachmore to Cookney, near Newtonhill, south of Aberdeen.
Equipment stolen in Scotland has found its way as far as far afield as Europe, Africa and Asia, through a network of criminal gangs.
Two of the most recent vehicles to be repatriated to Scotland by the organisation were a Manitou telehandler and a John Deere tractor worth £96,000, which were seized in Lithuania following a coordinated operation.
NFUM is part of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC), in association with the police, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and other organisations.
During the past three years since the group was established, the cost of farm vehicle theft in Scotland has fallen by about 50%.
Robbie Wallace, of NFUM, said: “Farm vehicle theft is big business for the organised gangs who are stealing expensive vehicles and farm equipment and either cloning it for sale here, or shipping it across the world.
“A new breed of brazen and determined thieves is using a combination of brute force and technological know-how to target the countryside.”
The warning has been issued ahead of a rural crime event in Ayrshire on Friday next week.
The event takes place at Dumfries House, about two miles from Cumnock, and will include a presentation on rural crime trends and agricultural vehicle theft.
Anyone interested in attending should register by contacting 0131 472 4000.