POST Online Media Lite Edition


UK bare agricultural land in England and Wales steady

Staff Writer |
The average value of bare agricultural land in England and Wales remained static at just over £7,310/acre in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Knight Frank Farmland Index.

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This brings to an end a seven-quarter run of sliding values, the longest period of decline since the early 1990s when prices fell for 12 consecutive quarters.

Over the past 24 months, average values have fallen by 12%, slicing £1,000 off the price of an acre of land.

Despite this, farmland remains one of the best long-term investments with values up 83% over the past 10 years, comfortably outpacing the mainstream housing market (+15%) and even prime central London homes (+28%).

Given the low transaction volumes of recent years, the vast majority of landowners will still be sitting on an asset that has greatly increased in value since they purchased or inherited it.

The most pressing question is whether the current equilibrium between the factors putting downwards pressure on values and those helping to sustain them remain in place.

The main downwards threat of course remains the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process. Defra minister Michael Gove has consistently repeated his support for farmers, albeit with an increasing focus on the delivery of environmental benefits, but has provided little detail to back this up.

This uncertainty limits the upside for land values in the near term, but unless a significant number of farmers exit the industry because of Brexit it is unlikely to cause a slump in prices.

A short-term exodus seems unlikely given many farmers advocated leaving the EU and some kind of financial support is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

In addition, a number of factors are helping to support the market. The decline in sterling and more favourable economic conditions continue to underpin farm-gate prices for most agricultural commodities.

An increasing amount of development, including HS2, is also helping to boost competition for the limited amount of agricultural currently available.

A significant number of farmers or landowners who have sold land or had it compulsorily purchased for development are looking for alternative property.

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