Average price/ac just under €9,000 nationally in 2019

Research released last night, Monday, January 13, shows that land sales during 2019 averaged between €8,800/ac and €9,000/ac, slightly down on 2018 figures.

The latest Farm Report from the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) was launched by Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, at the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise yesterday.

Members of  the IPAV who specialise in the sale and letting of agricultural land found values for the year remained flat in some areas, including mid-Leinster (counties Kildare, Meath, Carlow and Kilkenny) and mid-Munster (counties Tipperary and Limerick).

The remainder of the country experienced small decreases of up to 3%. Within these areas, certain areas of land performed better than others, depending on quality, location and levels of local interest, the IPAV reported.

The report also found that long-term leasing is having “a real impact” on the volume of farmland coming up for sale. This practice is attractive to both young and retiring farmers, according to the IPAV.

Tom Crosse, group director of GMV Auctioneers, Limerick, and the chairperson of the IPAV’s Agricultural Committee, said spring and early summer were positive, with good levels of sales. However, this was subsequently tempered by a softening for the second half of 2019.

“A common thread across the country is the move towards long-term leasing. Prices of up to €300/ac achieved. The big incentive for young farmers is not having to finance the purchase of land. Overall, volumes of land sales were up 10% in the year,” Crosse explained.

Meanwhile, Eamon O’Flaherty, managing director of Sherry Fitzgerald in Maynooth and an IPAV board member, said he had seen a significant reduction in the amount of transactions in his region over the last 12 months, primarily as a result of Brexit. However, he added that he anticipates an increase in the first half of 2020.

“As long as beef prices remain at their current levels it’s going to be totally unrealistic for any beef or suckler farmer to buy land in the coming years,” O’Flaherty said.

He added: “The bloodstock industry and the hobby farmer are underpinning the market in this region, with only tillage farmers – who have had their own challenges in the autumn – being able to buy land.”

The increase in Stamp Duty of 1.5% (bringing it to 7.5%), announced in Budget 2020 in October, would only encourage more farmers to lease rather than buy, according to Pat Davitt, the IPAV’S chief executive.

He said: “This is not the way to a sustainable farming sector. Regardless of how long the lease lasts, it will run out in the end, giving the landowner an opportunity to take back the land.

“This could leave the young farmer struggling to find an alternative,” Davitt warned.

Joe Healy, the outgoing president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) was also in attendance at the event.