NFU Mutual is urging Scotland’s farmers to turn their farmyards into fortresses to protect them from thieves as prices soar.
The rural insurer is concerned that the combination of rising inflation and high commodity prices could lead to a resurgence of crime in the Scottish countryside.
“Property crime tends to go up during times of economic stress – and with inflation now at its highest level for 30 years and energy prices going through the roof – we’re advising farmers to review security to protect their machinery, diesel tanks and stored produce,” said NFU Mutual’s agricultural and field engineering lead, Bob Henderson.
“Based on our claims figures, during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 the cost of rural crime fell 25% in Scotland.
“However global supply chain problems, shipping delays and the impact of Covid and Brexit contributed to waiting lists for new quads and increased demand for second-hand kit.
“This shortage in new and second-hand farm machinery resulted in determined criminal gangs ramping up their efforts on Scotland’s farms.”
Mr Henderson said while rural criminals are continuing to target high-value items – such as quad bikes, trailers and tractor GPS guidance systems – higher commodity prices mean fertiliser stores and diesel tanks are at risk in the coming months.
“Until now the difficulty of stealing, storing and selling on tonnes of bulky fertiliser have meant that criminals have rarely targeted it – but the prospect of a ready market for an expensive commodity could put farm stocks at risk,” added Mr Henderson.
“Every farm is different, and needs security measures appropriate to its location, layout and operation – but with normal trading hugely disrupted, everyone needs to up their game to reduce the risk of losing valuable supplies to criminals.”
And as prices rise, Mr Henderson also advised farmers to keep in regular contact with their insurers to ensure adequate cover is in place for buildings, machinery, fuel, fertiliser and stored crops.
He said in recognition of the high losses and anxiety that farmers are suffering from rural crime, NFU Mutual has invested more than £240,000 support for SPARC – the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime over the past four years, amongst other measures at a local and UK-wise level to tackle the issue.
The insurer has also produced a rural security guide for farmers, crofters and landowners.
• Keep farm vehicles out of sight and locked up with keys removed.
• Block or fill in access points that aren’t regularly used.
• Store tools in security cages.
• Use a proprietary locking system to secure quads.
• Site fuel tanks in enclosed compound with secure access.
• Keep fertiliser stocks out of sight in locked buildings. However, in order to reduce fire risks, especially when storing ammonium nitrate (AN), make sure that there is still plenty of ventilation in the building, incompatible materials are kept segregated and at least one metre clearance is maintained around AN bag stacks for fire-fighting access.
• Remove GPS systems wherever possible, and mark your kit with indelible ink or forensic marking.
• Join local Rural and Farm Watch schemes.
• Use closed WhatsApp groups to share information about local criminal activity.
• Keep in contact with your neighbours and get to know your local rural crime team.
• Report all crimes and suspicious sightings to police.
• Use the Crimestoppers number – 0800 555 111 – to report rural crimes anonymously.
• Consider installing CCTV to protect farm yards and entrances.
• Fit tracking devices and immobilisers to quads and tractors.
• Use floodlights and movement detection alarms on farm buildings.
• Use CESAR vehicle marking to deter thieves and aid recoveries.
• Fit a fuel tank alarm to alert you to an attack on fuel tanks.
For more information on rural crime trends and advice, you can download NFU Mutual’s 2021 Rural Crime Report at nfumutual.co.uk/ruralcrime