Items worth more than £700,000 were stolen from farms amid a 27% rise in rural crime.

The statistics now released by the National Farmers Union (NFU) Mutual and Sussex Police show more criminals are taking equipment from Sussex’s farming community.

The NFU Mutual insurance company estimates the total cost of agricultural crime in Sussex last year was £730,000 – with £310,000 in East Sussex and £420,000 in West Sussex.

The thieves’ favourite items in the county were quad bikes, farm oil and diesel, garden tools and farm machinery.

Sussex Police revealed last year there were 494 crimes on rural land, an increase on 390 the year before.

James Osman, NFU county adviser for Sussex, said: “Rural crime is a constant battle for our farmer and grower members. The NFU is working hard with Sussex Police to clamp down on recurrent problems such as hare coursing and theft.

“We have recently provided some on-farm training for rural police officers who advise rural businesses on how to deter criminals.

“Public awareness campaigns also play a major role in tackling rural crime. Farmers rely on residents to be their eyes and ears and to report any unusual or suspicious activity taking place in the countryside.”

Chief Inspector Martin Sims said: “We take all reports of crime seriously, investigate and work closely with farmers and the rural community generally to try to prevent such offences.

“Some 3,190 people are already signed up to our Farmwatch system and we are always keen to have others enrol. See our site to find out how to do this. We are particularly grateful to James Osman, of the East and West Sussex NFU, for his tireless work in helping us to do this.”

For more about rural policing and Farmwatch, visit