As we start a new decade, it would be wrong not to look back over the last year, for once the weather was not the sole topic of conversation however the effects of the elements can sometimes be felt for days, weeks, months and even years. one thing is clear – weather patterns are becoming more erratic and it’s this unpredictability that makes weather one of the biggest threats to agriculture.
The wet summer of 2019 has affected the amount of winter sown wheat and barley, so the forecast is not great for arable farmers in terms of quantity for 2020. In other sectors away from the topic of the weather, Growth in domestic milk production in 2020 is expected to be limited due to a smaller dairy herd and lower growth in yields which might help firm the dairy market into the first half of 2020. In the beef and sheep sector, production is expected to fall by 4% and 5 % respectively in 2020, this after another significant drop in 2019.
From a policy perspective, 2019 seemed to have been an extension of 2018, as two Brexit deadlines came and went, but at least the overwhelming Conservative majority in the General Election has at least given some clarity to the Government Policy and direction of Brexit.
So what has this done to the Agricultural land Market? – well the answer is very little to be honest! – we have marketed and sold over 1300 acres in Lancashire in 2019, both on the market and off market privately. The majority of buyers have been from an existing farming business keen to increase their land holdings. In terms of values, £8,000 -£10,000 per acre covers the main range of sales, however there we some notable sales above ( and below) this range.
The uncertainty in Brexit, future trading positions and commodity prices doesn’t seem to delay or deter some farmer’s decisions which has resulted in a strong and positive land market in Lancashire which is not fully reflected in the National UK market which has seen land values fall slightly year on year. What’s the forecast into 2020? – probably something very similar, well placed productive fertile blocks of land will continue to meet strong demand, the test will be in the more marginal upland areas and secondary land sectors which are dominated by beef and sheep farmers, who might not have the same appetite for acquiring land as compared to the dairy and arable sectors of Lancashire.