A Bewholme farmer believes that thieves who stole a 40ft trailer worth £20,000 from his yard may be using it to export stolen goods out of the country.
Thomas Elliot is one of the latest farmers in East Yorkshire to become a victim of crime which last year cost the region’s rural economy more than £350,000, according to insurance company NFU Mutual.
Other items stolen from farms in the Driffield area include quad bikes, power tools, machinery, gas bottles and even crow bangers.
Mr Elliot’s trailer was used for transporting eggs around the country. He believes it was an ideal target for thieves because it didn’t have any branding.
He said: “You don’t think something like that would ever get stolen. It’s massive. You couldn’t just take it willy nilly. Whoever took it had a lorry and must have planned their route because it’s too big for smaller roads.
“You could get quad bikes in there and compact tractors. They could fill it up with gear and export it. Who’s going to question a white trailer?”
Meanwhile, NFU Mutual has warned about criminal gangs targeting tractors and machinery for export to developing countries in eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Although it’s understood no tractors have been stolen from the Driffield area, there have been reports of farming machinery worth thousands of pounds being stolen from fields.
In one incident at Burton Fleming last month, thieves used a burning torch to cut up a land press before removing it from a field.
Just days later thieves stole another land press from a yard, also in Burton Fleming.
Chairman of Driffield and Rural Farmwatch Gordon Calvert said that, at this time of year, the stubble in fields after crops had been cut gave easy access to criminals.
And he urged people to report crime, not least because in the Driffield area alone around 170 Farmwatch members could be altered by text about “travelling criminality.”
He said: “I don’t think it’s a big problem for Driffield as a whole, but crime happens in waves, so all of a sudden you’ll have a lot of farming equipment go missing and that can hit hard and cause a lot of destruction in the local community.”
He added: “It’s not just about the value of the equipment, because you have to replace it, especially if you’re in full swing at harvest time.”
According to NFU Mutual, rural crime across Yorkshire rose more than six per cent last year, and cost an estimated £44.5m across the country as a whole.
The firm says that gangs are targeting tractors valued at between £60K and £80K for sale in eastern Europe, while older models which require less maintenance are being sold on in Africa and the Middle East.
A spokesperson for NFU Mutual, which has more than three hundred offices in rural communities across the country, said: “The cost of claims is increasing as a result of more high-value items being stolen.
“Our experience with people who live and work in rural areas clearly shows that theft is more than just a setback – it can be devastating for businesses and families.”
l Anyone with information about the stolen trailer is asked to contact the police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference CS/2060349/2014.
It is a white commercial Don-Bur trailer, 40ft long by 16ft wide, which was stolen from Mr Elliot’s yard in Catfoss Road, Bewholme.
Police say there was a possible sighting of the trailer on Lelley Road, Preston on Saturday 2 August.