18 January 2002

French values are trailing behind UK

LAND prices in France are still a third of UK values, despite having increased by 3%, 4% and 12% over the past three years.

"Values are now levelling off as farming incomes, though on the increase, do not warrant the banks to lend for land purchase," says David Wilson of Farming Projects, which relocates farmers to France.

In his review of 2001, he suggests that the current BSE crisis in France and the shake-out following Agenda 2000 are also likely to have a detrimental effect on land prices.

In the past 12 months the average value of land eligible for arable area payments was 25,400 francs/ha (about £1000/acre), with permanent pasture fetching 16,000 francs/ha (£650/acre).

French farmers benefit from greater protection and subsidies partly because the government is prepared to match the support coming from Brussels, Mr Wilson reckons. For example, readily available subsidised loan schemes to young farmers are still being backed up by more temporary ones, he notes.

Also, during the BSE crisis another loan scheme provided 50m francs (£4.8m) at 1.5% to the countrys beef farmers. A 1% loan was made available for repairs following the December 1999 storm. &#42