Rural thefts saw a decline in Wales last year – but have started to spiral again in 2022 as the cost of living crisis hits the countryside.

The UK-wide cost fell 9.3 per cent to £40.5m last year, while in Wales rural thefts dropped by 17 per cent decrease to an estimated £1.3m.

In its 2022 Rural Crime Report, initial indications from rural insurer NFU Mutual reveal the first quarter of 2022 has seen thieves making up for time lost to the pandemic, with UK costs over 40 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Claims indications from the end of 2021 and into the first quarter of this year show a rise in the cost of rural crime in both Wales and UK-wide.

Last year, well-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards stealing high-value farm machinery as the UK cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained at over £9m.

Land Rover Defender owners battled a barrage of crime as the rocketing value of second-hand cars and replacement parts saw thieves stealing the iconic British 4x4 vehicles and stripping them down, with the UK cost of claims shooting up by 87 per cent to £2.6m.

And although NFU Mutual saw the cost of stolen quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) fall 11 per cent to £2.2m in 2021, almost half of those thefts took place from September to December.

The number of fuel theft claims received by NFU Mutual fell from 2020 to 2021, but with record high prices for diesel and heating oil, NFU Mutual claims data from the first half of this year indicates the frequency and cost of fuel theft claims have more than doubled compared to the same period in 2021.

In a new poll of the rural community by NFU Mutual, almost half of respondents said that fuel theft was now their greatest crime concern.

Owen Suckley, NFU Mutual Manager for Wales, said: “We’re encouraged by the fall in the cost of rural crime in Wales last year and the dedicated work of police rural crime teams.

“However, we cannot be complacent and our latest UK claims figures warn that rural theft is quickly gathering momentum as criminals make up for time lost over the past two pandemic years. We’re advising rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption.

“With prices of essential farm equipment such as tractors and quads rising fast and the cost of diesel soaring over the past year, there’s little doubt that criminals will be trying to steal from farms."