THE Scottish farms market in 2017 has been characterised by a shortage of supply of prime arable land and large regional variations in value, a farm business briefing heard this week.

Strutt & Parker farms agent William Dalrymple said that so far this year, the total farmland acreage brought to the market decreased by 30 per cent and the number of farms reduced by more than 50 per cent, compared with 2016. A total of 24,800 acres have been launched to the Scottish market so far, compared to 41,100 acres in 2016 and 34,500 acres in 2015.

Mr Dalrymple told an invited audience that most of the 53 farms that came to the market were between 100 and 500 acres and that the strongest demand was for prime arable land and well-equipped farms extending to more than 300 acres. A total of 38 (72 per cent) of farms available found a buyer.

Mr Dalrymple added: "We believe the shortage of supply is due to uncertainty over Brexit and the future of subsidy payments. I think many farmers are reluctant to make decisions at this point and are waiting until they know more.

"Interestingly, we have seen a re-emergence of English buyers and bidders as well as continued interest from Northern Irish buyers. This may indicate that the prospect of a second independence referendum is perceived as less of a concern.

Mr Dalrymple went on: "In line with recent years, we have continued to see large regional variations in land values in 2017, particularly in the arable sector."

He reported that arable land varied from £3,250/acre to £14,600; permanent pasture ranged from £1,500/acre to £3,600 and; hill ground sold for between £200/acre and £900.

In conclusion, Mr Dalrymple said: "A potential reduction in subsidies is likely to have some impact on the farmland sales market, particularly arable, and we may see an increase in farms coming to the market as a result. However, well-equipped, prime arable land is likely to remain scarce. Diversified and mixed farms are likely to become more resilient than arable units.

"Whilst inheritance tax and capital gains tax benefits continue, demand for farmland is likely to remain strong, particularly from investors."

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd held their Christmas show and sale in Longtown on Thursday when a massive show of 6,105 prime lambs were forward that included 48 pens of 10 lambs presented for judging. Lambs sold to £130 per head for the champion pen, or 317p per kg and averaged 174.3p (-10.7p on the week). There were also 5,624 cast sheep forward when heavy ewes averaged £71.10 (-£5.83) and light/export-type ewes levelled at £35.44 (-£1.97).