Interest in let land grew in 2013, according to Brown & Co, which handled 14 transactions across 2,695 let acres during the year.

Owners looked to cash in on strong core land values and the current outlook suggested the only way was up, said the firm’s Jim Major.

A diverse range of investors had been active, from colleges to commercial interests, and was led by non-farming money looking for commercial farmland.

Sitting tenants had also been buying to lock into perceived growth and safe return. Bank lending was still available and remained relatively inexpensive.

Sitting tenants bought 31% of the acreage handled by Brown & Co, with local landowners accounting for 15%, private investors 22% and institutional investors 32%.

“Tenanted farms have traded for some years at about half the VP value,” said Mr Major in the firm’s Agricultural Investment Review.

“The market has now driven forward, meaning buyers of any nature have to consider bids showing in excess of 60% of VP value to beat off competition.

“Tenants with funds or with access to borrowing also look to bite deeper into the VP premium to secure their farm, having the singular advantage (post-acquisition) of being able to turn a “let farm” into a “vacant farm”. However, investor buyers have not stood back and allowed this to happen uncontested.”