The revenue generated by auction room sales decreased by just 28pc from €91.04m in 2018 to €66.43m last year with the per-acre price increasing nationally by 15pc from €11,345/ac to €13,374/ac. The average size of a holding coming to auction was 56.5ac.
The South-east continues to have the most expensive land where the top per-acre price in the country was paid for ground when an 11ac tillage field in Castledermot, Co Kildare made €33,180. The average price for an acre of ground in the sunny South-east came in at €15,960/ac, up 18pc on last year.
Overall land sales in the region featured larger farms and included the auction of the largest holding in the country to be sold under the gavel. Prumplestown Estate on 298ac on the Carlow-Kildare border sold in lots making a total of €4.87m.
In North Leinster smaller holdings were the flavour of the year where 29 auctions saw 1,156ac sold, giving an average property size of around 39ac. The volume of sales was down 52pc on 2019 whereas the per-acre price rose by 14pc to €11,417/ac.
The largest holding to sell in the region was an 84ac non-residential farm at Pelletstown near Trim that made €1.07m. The best per-acre price was paid for a 25ac parcel of land at Powderlough in Co Meath which made €27,000/ac.
Connacht and Ulster saw larger holdings sell under the hammer where 628ac sold in 10 auctions, giving an average of 62ac per parcel and a per-acre price of €6,870. This was up 5pc on 2018. However, the amount of land disposed of in the auction rooms dropped by 65pc while the amount of money generated by public sales dropped by 53pc.
Munster holds ground
In Munster the price and the volume mirrored one another with the amount of land declining by 17pc reflecting almost exactly the decline in the amount of money generated, which also declined by 17pc. Meanwhile, the average per-acre price for the province stayed more or less the same as 2018 at €14,262/ac.
Brexit, the beef crisis and long-term leasing are quoted by many auctioneers as the causes for the sharp drop in auction sales. According to Dan Fleming of Blarney in Co Cork, the market is imbalanced. “You need the drystock men to be doing well to absorb the dairy stock but they have had an awful year. The drystock man is practically gone out of the land market,” he said.
Speaking at the launch of the latest IPAV Farm Report Eamon O’Flaherty, MD of Sherry Fitzgerald Brady O’Flaherty in Maynooth, Co Kildare and IPAV board member, echoed Dan Fleming’s analysis.
“As long as beef prices remain at their current levels, it’s going to be totally unrealistic for any beef/suckler farmer to buy land in the coming years. The bloodstock industry and the hobby farmer are underpinning the market in this region (Kildare/Meath), along with tillage farmers who have had their own challenges in the autumn, being able to buy land.”
In the West, Karl Fox of Ballina says that land sales in his area are now the preserve of the farmer with the second income or the business person. “In the last four years I think I sold one parcel of land to a full-time farmer; other than that those buying are business people or part-time farmers,” he said.
Another factor slowing down land sales in the West is the difficulty of getting planting permission for forestry. “Up until recently one could buy marginal land confident that it could be planted but that is no longer the case,” he said.