NFU Mutual published its annual Crime Report today (August 1), which has revealed rural theft cost Devon and Cornwall farmers an estimated £880,000 last year.

The UK cost of rural theft increased by 22 per cent to an estimated £49.5m. The UK cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual soared by 29% to £11.7m in 2022.

The cost of GPS theft in the UK increased by 15 per cent to £1.8m in 2022, This sharply escalated in the first four months of 2023, with the cost of GPS theft doubling to over £500,000 compared to the same period last year.

Farms across Devon and Cornwall have also been targeted for the sophisticated equipment, which typically costs over £10,000 and is used to guide tractors and combine harvesters. Without it, farmers face severe delays and disruption to harvesting and cultivating work, with long waits for replacement kit. 

Quad bikes and ATVs were also top targets for rural thieves. In 2022, quad and ATV theft reported to NFU Mutual cost £3m nationally, a 34% rise on the previous year. Supply chain issues are sending prices of second-hand machines higher, making the vehicles an attractive target for thieves.

The UK cost of livestock theft rose 8.7% in 2022, totalling an estimated £2.7m. Claims reported to NFU Mutual regularly involve over 50 sheep being taken in a single raid

A survey of NFU Mutual Agents across the UK found 70 per cent knew farmers who had been repeat victims of rural crime. And 86% said thieves are cashing in on the limited supply of vehicles and rising prices.

Ian Maddever, Senior Agent at NFU Mutual Liskeard said: “Highly-organised gangs are causing disruption to farming and widespread concern to people who live and work in the countryside.

“Rural theft is changing. It is not only opportunist thieves travelling a few miles, we are now seeing internationally organised criminal activity. These gangs target high-value farm machinery and GPS kits because they can be sold all over the world.

“Loss of vital machinery and GPS equipment causes huge disruption to farmers who are already stretched to the limit and replacing kit in the current economic situation can take months, adding additional stress.”

Martin Beck of Devon & Cornwall Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “Any increase in the cost of crime is unwelcome and the NFU Mutual report is a reminder of that; although we live in a lower crime area compared with other parts of England we must work together and harder to tackle rural crime. The NFU Mutual report has showed how insurance claims to them have increased across England and Wales.

“Devon and Cornwall has seen crime reported in rural areas returning to what we saw before the Covid pandemic with the number of rural crimes reported to the police being similar to last year. With the price of goods rising the costs to insurers has subsequently increased. Insurers are also seeing claims for more high value goods being stolen and damage, such as farm tractor GPS, which have increased greatly in the past 18 months.

“We’re encouraging people to join our ‘Devon and Cornwall Alert Community Messaging’ service ( which allows us to share crime prevention messages and crime appeals specific to where you live. We would also ask people to take the time to review their security and consider prevention as their first measure to prevent their property from being stolen.”

Ian Maddever added: “Many items are stolen ‘to order’ by thieves using online technology to identify where farm machinery is stored and scope out the best way to steal it. They will also spend hours watching the movement of farming families to work out the best time to attack.

“Those targeted by criminals may often second guess themselves in the aftermath of an incident as well as live in fear of repeat attacks on what is not only their workplace, but also their family home.

“That’s why we are working with farmers to help protect their livelihoods, sharing our advice and expertise as the main insurer of the UK’s farmers and offering support.”

For more information on rural crime trends and advice on how to beat rural crime in your area download the report at