Farm crime is a threat to livelihoods, research shows

Research reveals that agricultural equipment is surprisingly vulnerable to theft - a specialist insurance comparison website is urging farm workers to take every available precaution.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 8:54 am
Ballycastle. Northern Ireland. 06.22.16. Agriculture - collecting silage in the fields near Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Silage is grass fodder that is used as animal feed during the winter.
Ballycastle. Northern Ireland. 06.22.16. Agriculture - collecting silage in the fields near Ballycastle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Silage is grass fodder that is used as animal feed during the winter.

Locked garages, which are considered the safest place to keep agricultural vehicles, are the most popular storage option, yet under half of all policyholders use them, at 48%.

Research from CompareNI.com, based on a sample of nearly 2,000 policies in Northern Ireland shows that 22.6% of farmers either don’t lock their garages, keeping working vehicles in unlocked garages overnight or leave vehicles out on driveways.

The farm vehicle data, which was compiled across Northern Ireland from 2019 to 2020, shows the average value of a tractor in Northern Ireland is £11,996 – over £2,000 less that the rest of the UK. Tractors were the most popular type Agricultural crime rates have continued to fall by 14%* in the last 12 months from 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020, however rural crime costs in Northern Ireland have been increasing by 18%, reaching £3.3 million in 2019 – as thieves target high value farm vehicles, equipment and livestock, with 328 agricultural crimes recorded.

The highest levels of agricultural crime incidents (Jan-Dec 2020), across each local region; Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – 53, Newry, Down and Mourne – 49, Fermanagh and Omagh - 46, Causeway Coast and Glens – 42, Mid Ulster – 37, Derry and Strabane – 24, Antrim and Newtownabbey – 24, Mid & East Antrim – 21

Seven of the policing districts showed a decrease in levels of agricultural crime from January to December 2020, while four showed an increase.

Mid & East Antrim had the greatest decrease (25) and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon had the greatest increase.

Responding to the findings, CompareNI.com’s founder Greg Wilson comments: “Agriculture is one of Northern Ireland’s most important industries, adding more than £500 million to the local economy each year in terms of gross value added.

“With over 29,000 farms in Northern Ireland, farming communities have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep high-quality, local produce on our shelves.

“Many people outside the farming communities might assume that due to the rural location of farms and the size and complexity of the machinery in question that theft would be unlikely, but as the statistics show, farms have become a target for specialist thieves.

“That’s one of the reasons why an insurance policy is so important. It not only protects farmers’ valuable assets and provides financial security – it also supports their livelihood.

“ If items are stolen or damaged it could be very difficult to afford to replace them - causing knock-on effects to the running of the farm itself until a replacement vehicle is found.

“If the vehicle in question needs to be on a public road at any stage, it will need at least third-party insurance. It could also save money to insure all vehicles under the same policy – including other transport used on the farm such as quads or 4x4s and even a car which can be classed as business and social use – as long as any vehicle on the road does not use red diesel, as this could invalidate the policy.”

CompareNI.com suggests the following measures could help to increase security, and in turn might also lower some premiums:

- Restricting access to yards, installing sturdy gates fixed in concrete or a metal post

- Painting equipment in distinctive/corporate colours

- Consider investing in security devices such as Datatag marking or vehicle trackers

- Registering and taking photographs of expensive items and equipment, noting serial numbers

- Checking fences, hedges and walls regularly for breaches

- Adding alarms, CCTV and security lights, and keeping gates locked and vehicle keys with you

- Joining farm and Neighbourhood Watch schemes.