There has been an almost consistent fall in the incidents of agricultural crime in Northern Ireland (NI) over the past 10 years.

The latest figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) indicate that 291 cases of burglary, robbery and theft relating to farming were reported during 2020-21.

The figure is 24% lower than the year previous and represents a fall of 69% from 2010-11, which is the first year the PSNI started recording agri-crime statistics.

Similarly, figures for all crimes reported in rural areas, not just those related to agriculture, have fallen steadily since 2010-11.

The latest statistics show that 3,883 rural crimes were reported to the PSNI in the 12 months to the end of March 2021. It represents a 27% decrease on the year previous and is 58% lower than the 9,211 rural crimes, which were reported in 2010-11.

Total costs

However, the total costs associated with rural crime are moving in the opposite direction, according to figures from NFU Mutual.

In its latest annual report, the insurance firm states that rural crime costs totalled £3.3m in NI during 2019, which is an 18% increase on the year previous.

The figure has been on the rise for the past four years in a row, and sat at £2.5m in 2016.

NFU Mutual, which provides insurance cover to around 75% of NI farmers, states that the rising cost stems from thieves targeting higher-value machinery and livestock on farms.

That said, new figures for the 2020 calendar year are likely to show a reduction in the cost of rural crime as COVID-19 lockdowns led to significantly lower crime rates across the board.

This is apparent in the sharp drop in cases reported to the PSNI.

In September 2020, only 14 agricultural crimes were reported in NI, which is the lowest monthly total since the PSNI’s dataset began 10 years ago.

The number of agricultural crimes in most months from April 2020 to March 2021 were generally lower than the equivalent months in previous years, although figures for May, June and August 2020 were higher.