Land availability during the first half of the year was up over 60% on 2005, according to the Farmers Weekly Land Tracker index.

The index is based on the acreage advertised in Farmers Weekly and so far almost 116,000 acres of land and farms have been featured in 2006.

But this includes one abnormally large block of land in Scotland that was sold by former NFU Scotland president John Cameron.

Taking away Mr Cameron’s 32,000-acre estate, the increase in availability falls back to a less impressive 16%.

Indeed, some areas of the country, particularly northern England, have seen the amount of land put up for sale decrease (see
Ian Ritchie’s comments in Agent’s Eye, opposite).

But in the south west, Alex Rew of agent Stags said he had seen a definite increase.

“We’re certainly up by a good 30%.

Undoubtedly, people are starting to feel that single farm payment issues are working their way through the system.”

Mr Rew said few large commercial units were included in the extra land.

“The overall cost of borrowing is not high, so I don’t think there is any great pressure on the commercial chaps to sell.”

Many of the farms being sold were smaller units where the farmer had reached retirement age and there were no children keen to carry on, added Mr Rew.