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Demand for agricultural land remains strong

By Dan Buglass
A STRONG demand for agricultural land, allied to a lack of properties coming on the market is the prin-ciple reason why the value of farms sold in the last year has shown an increase, according to Charles Dudg-eon of FPD Savills.
Speaking in Edinburgh Mr Dudgeon made the point that the value of farms sold in Scotland in the first nine months of last year had risen by around 10 per cent.

But the fact remains that only 46,000 acres were offered on the open market in that nine month period of 2003. This is down by 27 per cent on the 62,000 acres traded in the comparable period of 2002. This is in line with the UK trend, which has seen sales of farmland slip by 36 per cent in the last year.
Mr Dudgeon commented: "The review of the Common Agricultural Policy has undoubtedly caused some landowners to shy away from putting their land on the market, which in turn has tightened up supply and in-creased demand.

"But we have increased requests to find property for clients who are frustrated by the lack of acres. For those with roll-over to re-invest, or timescales to meet, the premiums they are prepared to pay can be sub-stantial."
Private sales are now a growing feature of the land market and Mr Dudgeon highlighted the fact that during the last year his firm have sold over 11,000 acres on this basis. In addition there are 900 potential purchasers on the books with over pounds 2.4bn available to spend

Current values, according to Mr Dudgeon, are still on the rise. The best arable ground, on a bare land basis with no buildings or farmhouse, is worth up to pounds 2,700 per acre, and the expectation is that this could go as far as pounds 3,000 in the coming months. Secondary arable farms are valued at close to pounds 2,000 per acre, while a decent upland unit will easily achieve a price of pounds 1,200 per acre.
Dairy farms are the most difficult to value, said Mr Dudgeon. "There are as many dairy farmers wishing to expand as planning to quit. The price of the farm is largely dependent on location and the state of the fixed equipment."

High as the price of agricultural land may seem, it is still lower in real terms than 1979. The same cannot be said for prime residential properties with choice houses in Edinburgh making up to pounds 450 per square foot. In London that small area can fetch as much as pounds 1,000 for each square foot.

Mr Dudgeon illustrated this point by citing two houses in Edinburgh and Glasgow with around one acre of land each and a hill farm with 1,800 acres of good grazing and six houses. All are worth around pounds 1m. He posed the question: "Which is the better value?" His answer was simple: "It has to be the hill farm. Such units are under-valued. They attract huge amounts of subsidy, and could even make a profit without that support."
Returning to the CAP reforms Mr Dudgeon was anxious to remind farmers that come May 1 this year the EU will have 10 additional member states. He added: "They will be joining the EU farming team, but there is only one pot of subsidy, and that can only grow by 1 per cent per year until 2012. These new members will want their share of what we have had for the last 25 years.

"There is a view that these new members of the EU represent a threat to the current 15, but that fact is that they are more frightened of us in that most are net importers. A larger EU will have little effect on farming in the short-term. However, if the new members get their act on the arable front together, then farmers all down the east side of the EU had better beware."

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