The farmland market in England proved to be resilient in 2019 with average prices holding firm, according to land and property specialists Strutt & Parker.

Analysis of the Farmland Database, which records the details of all blocks of publicly marketed farmland over 100 acres in size, shows the average price of arable land in 2019 was £9,200/acre – exactly the same as in 2018.

Meanwhile, the percentage of farms marketed during the first half of the year that had either sold or were under offer by the end of the year was higher than in 2018.

Matthew Sudlow, Strutt & Parker’s head of estates & farm agency, said: “The figures show that the market continued to be far more resilient than some had expected."

William Morrison of Strutt & Parker south west region said: “Supply-side factors have also helped to underpin average values, with the volume of farmland publicly marketed in 2019 20 per cent lower than the five-year average and 35 per cent lower than 2018.”

“Best-in-class farms continue to sell well, although the greatest proportion of these farms and estates are selling on a private basis without coming to the open market.

"Despite the south west bucking the trend in acres on the market, with more acres marketed than the five-year average, premium prices from the right buyers are being achieved.

"Buyers with roll-over money to spend or those looking to expand their existing operations will pay good prices for the best land.

"Arable land continues to trade between £7,000/acre and £12,000/acre and good pasture £6,000 to £8,000/acre. However, more marginal land and farms requiring substantial investment struggle to find a buyer.”

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The volume of farmland on the open market is the second smallest amount in the past 20 years. There were fewer farms for sales in the southern half of England, but the most dramatic year-on-year fall was seen in the east of England where the acreage for sale fell from 30,200 acres in 2018 to just 8,600 acres in 2019.

In total, 69,200 acres were publicly marketed in England in 2019, compared with 107,000 acres in 2018. In addition, private or off-market sales are estimated to account for about 20-30% of the market for farmland.

Mr Sudlow pointed out that average values do mask what has essentially become a multi-tiered market for farmland.

“Over the past 12 months we have seen nearly a 200% difference between the lowest and highest price paid for arable land – from a low of £6,000/acre to a high of £17,500/acre.

“While demand from lifestyle and non-farmer buyers remains stable, buyers who derive their primary income from the land are taking a more cautious approach.

"There is still ongoing uncertainty about farm incomes, which has made many farmer buyers more reticent about borrowing against future farm profits. As a result, some high-quality commercial arable land in those regions focused on productive farming is currently achieving below average prices. However, this does mean it looks good value-for-money in the long-term.”

Over the past three years, around 30% of arable land has traded at £10,000/acre or more, while just under a quarter has sold for below £8,000/acre.

The average price of pasture land sold in 2019 was £7,000/acre, down from £7,700/acre in 2018.

Mr Sudlow said demand from non-farmer buyers is expected to remain firm and overseas buyers have also become more visible in today’s market – due in part to the weakness of sterling.

“A phenomenon seen over the past year or so in Scotland is unprecedented demand from forestry investors for hill ground suitable for planting trees, which has seen prices rise significantly. With growing government pressure for increased woodland creation as part of climate change mitigation, we believe this could well become a growing trend in England and Wales as well.”

Overall, the expectation is for average values to remain fairly static, albeit with a significant variation in prices paid, which will be highly dependent on location.