Farmland prices continue to rise. Prime arable land continues to be the most valuable UK farmland asset with average values above their previous highs of 2015 as follows: England £10,290 per acre, Scotland £9,885 per acre and £8,000 per acre in Wales. Supported by buyers looking for environmental solutions and opportunities across the home nations values for poorer quality pasture land have also increased. Prices for pasture land have increased by an average of 13.5% in the last 12 months to £5,290 per acre across GB.
In recent years, farmland prices attracted the attention of investors, agricultural professionals, and researchers alike. Private and institutional interest in farmland has been growing. Private and institutional investors accounted for 30% of transactions in 2022, compared to an average over the past decade of about 22%. This article will look at the reasons behind rising farmland prices, shedding light on the economic, environmental, and demographic influences shaping the market.
How do farmland prices vary across Europe and what are the fundamentals of farmland pricing and demand?
Each factor of production used in agriculture typically earns a type of income; labour receives a wage, entrepreneurs profit, capital earns interest and land generates rental income. Understanding land prices and rents is also a key element for understanding the future prospects for farmland.
The Fundamentals of Farmland Prices
The farmland prices depend on a number of factors; including national factors (like legislation on foreign ownership), regional factors (like climate and infrastructure) and more local factors such as soil quality, slope or drainage).
1. The World is Losing Productive Farmland
Farmland is a finite resource and farmland is being lost. For example, in many developed countries, farmland is being lost to other uses including building on greenbelt land for houses, as well as environmental uses. Productive land is also being lost to soil degradation in other parts of the World.
As urban areas expand, farmland is often converted into residential, commercial, or industrial spaces. This process of urbanization reduces the overall availability of agricultural land. With limited supply and growing demand, the prices of existing farmland naturally rise. The conversion of farmland into non-agricultural uses also has an impact on land quality and productivity, making the remaining farmland more valuable.
2. The Changing Climate
Climate change is also impacting farmland prices. For example, Australian farmland has recently reached record highs with the median price per hectare going up by 20% during 2022 to reach A$8506 (US$5647) per ha. The CAGR over the last 20 years has been 8.5% per annum. According to Rural Bank demand has been boosted by good rainfall conditions in 2022, alongside strong growth in commodity prices.
More frequent drought and higher temperatures in Southern Europe will mean some regions may become less suitable for crop and livestock production. The upside is that land values could increase by 8% in Western Europe and by an even higher percentage in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
3. The Growing Demand for Food
One of the primary drivers behind the rising farmland prices is the global increase in demand for agricultural products. The world’s population continues to grow, placing greater pressure on food production. Additionally, changing dietary preferences, especially in emerging economies, is leading to a higher demand for protein-rich diets. To meet these needs, agricultural producers are seeking to expand their operations or acquire additional land, consequently driving up the prices.
4. Growing Economic Uncertainty
There is always renewed interest in farmland during times of economic uncertainty and high inflation. Historically, agricultural land has provided stable returns and acted as a hedge against inflation. Recent volatility in financial markets has led investors to seek alternative assets, such as farmland, which offer potential long-term value. Institutional investors, including pension funds and private equity firms, are allocating capital to farmland as part of their portfolio diversification strategies. This influx of investment into the agricultural sector has contributed to the upward pressure on farmland prices.
Farmland is a real asset class that provides investors with attractive risk-adjusted returns, portfolio diversification benefits, and access to natural resources. This is in addition to positive performance during inflationary periods.
5. Government Policies and Subsidies
Government policies and subsidies play a significant role in driving farmland prices. In some regions, governments support farmers, encouraging them to expand their operations or maintain certain land uses. Such policies increase the value of farmland, as they effectively reduce the costs associated with farming. Agricultural subsidies create stability, helping to attract both domestic and international investors who perceive farmland as a safer investment.
6. More people are buying farmland for environmental and lifestyle reasons
Increasing awareness of environmental concerns has also influenced farmland prices. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as organic farming, regenerative agriculture, and conservation efforts, are gaining momentum. As a result, farmland with suitable soil quality, water resources, and environmental stewardship practices commands higher prices. Buyers are willing to pay a premium for land that aligns with their values and supports sustainable farming practices. This trend is particularly evident in regions where consumers prioritize locally produced and environmentally friendly products.
There is a complex range of factors driving farmland prices. This includes growing demand for agricultural products, urbanization and land conversion, investment opportunities, government policies and subsidies, and environmental considerations. Understanding these influences is crucial for farmers, investors, and policymakers alike. By looking at these trends stakeholders can make informed decisions to ensure the sustainability and productivity of farmland in the future.
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