A change in direction for Britain’s biggest farmer, the Co-operative Group, is behind its decision to sell 2000 arable acres from its tightly held farms portfolio.

The Co-op farms 70,000 acres, of which it owns 25,000. The sale – 1440 acres of Bedfordshire and almost 600 acres in Hertfordshire – is the first since a 440-acre farm was sold in Scotland two years ago.

Hot on the heels of its acquisition of retail rival Somerfield, the group has announced it wants to increase the range and volume of fruit and vegetables grown on its farms for its stores.

Buntingford Estate

Proceeds from these sales, which will leave it with only two cereal farms (one with significant mineral workings and the other the site of a prospective eco-town), will be reinvested in suitable land and businesses, including packing operations. Two potato packhouses have been bought in the past year.

The Buntingford Estate, in east Hertfordshire, is being launched this week as a whole or in lots. Mainly Grade 2 land, with a house, three cottages, bungalow, flat and a wide range of other buildings, it is offered through Savills for £10m, putting theland at about £5500/acre. “It is a goodcommercial farm in a good location,” said Adrian Wilson of Savills.

The Cockayne Hatley Estate, with a farmhouse and 3500t of grain storage among substantial farm buildings, has a guide price of £9.5m through Strutt & Parker.

The Buntingford Estate is to be sold by the Co-operative Group.

Farm for sale Bedfordshire.