Thieves are targeting irrigation guns in order to steal diesel, with some farmers losing thousands of litres.
Irrigators have started to appear all over central Scotland as the May drought continues into June and NFU Mutual said this has coincided with a spike in fuel thefts.
Thieves identify spot irrigation guns at work before following the pipework back to the pump. Often these are in relatively remote spots making the task of emptying them all the easier.
One farmer near Coupar Angus, who asked not to be named, lost 2,000 litres from the integral tank on his mobile pumping unit over a three day period and although he has reported the crime holds out little hope the culprits will be found.
“It is partly our fault, I suppose because the pump was in view of a minor pubic road. It sat idle for three days waiting for a neighbour to finish irrigating and it was during this time the tank was emptied.
It is a sound proofed pump but the thieves broke through the outer casing and then burst the padlock on the tank.
"The police advised us to consider fitting up CCTV cameras but I am not sure if that would work. There has been theft of tools from a nearby farm workshop so there are obviously gangs around.”
Another farmer from North Fife had 1,000 litres stolen from his fuel tank in similar circumstances over the weekend but in his case the pump was in a remote location.
He and his neighbour, who was also targeted, had strong suspicions of local involvement which seemed to be backed up by the direction taken by vehicle tracks leading from the crime scene but the police told them the evidence was not strong enough.
Tim Price, the Mutual’s rural affairs specialist, said fuel thefts had been at a lower level in recent months but there had been resurgence in recent weeks as diesel prices had risen.
He said: “This is organised crime using vans fitted with large tanks and pumps. The gangs will have a list of customers and arrange to meet them in lay-bys and similar locations to transfer the fuel.
"It is profitable and once they equip themselves they will keep going until they are caught.”
Advice on securing irrigation pumps:
Tanks supplying irrigation pump are note easy to secure. Be wary of using padlocks because thieves will then simply drill in to tanks causing a spillage which could cause far more problems than the loss of the fuel.
- where possible site pumps and tanks in spots which are difficult to see and access.
- Try to store only the minimum amount needed for the job.
- If the pump is not to be used for few days take it back to the security of the farmyard.
- as with other crime prevention keep an eye out for suspicious vans in the area and report them to the police.
Source: NFU Mutual