The land market remains flat and there are few signs that the eventual receipt of the single farm payment will change the situation
dramatically.

According to land agent Savills, just over 15,500 acres of land were launched during the first three months of the year – a 1% decrease on last year and over 50% down on the 44,000 acres for sale in 1998.

Strutt & Parker, which only records farm sales over 100 acres, said availability was down 12% on last year.

Some agents are blaming the uncertainty that continues to surround the SFP and the implications of CAP reform for the slump, but others are not so sure.

“There are no real complications for bringing land to the market now,” said Tom White of east-of-England agent Brown & Co.

“Fundamentally, I don’t think there is a rush of people wanting to sell their farms.

Those in their 60s may no longer have the appetite to farm, but there are other things they can do with their land and inheritance tax relief continues to play a role.”

However, this apathy on the part of vendors was not shared by buyers, said Strutt & Parker’s Mark McAndrew.

Taking into account farms launched last year, deals were struck on almost 20,500 acres in the first quarter of 2006.

“This is the highest level for some six years.”

Mr McAndrew said non-farmers were continuing to drive the market with 60% of those sales going to “lifestyle” buyers.

Land values do not seem to be falling, despite commodity prices remaining under pressure.

Strutt & Parker’s price index puts the average price of land at £2917/acre, only 0.8% lower than the same period in 2006.

In the majority of sales, the SFP does not seem to be influencing prices and is not being valued separately.

“Prices are still discussed in gross terms and then apportioned afterwards,” said Mr White.

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk