PEOPLE considering dipping their toe into the farmland market and looking to make purchases may sit tight in 2019, until more clarity can be made available on what the market may look like and how farmers will be supported post 2024.

This was the message from rural land experts, Savills, as they announced their farmland update this week.

However, the continued restrained supply versus demand imbalance has supported average prime arable farmland values in Scotland, which was noted as having remained stable last year, coming in at £7640 per acre. The demand that has been seen has largely been driven by a growing proportion of farmers who aspire to expand their businesses, and the increased availability of cheap money.

Speaking at the farmland update, director of rural sales in Savills' Edinburgh office, Evelyn Channing explained: “Despite Brexit uncertainty, demand remains strong and the farmland market continued to function throughout 2018, with more farms sold by the end of December than in the previous 12 months. While Brexit may not be impacting demand, it is undoubtedly the reason that very little land has been offered to the market so far in 2019. It is 22% down on the same period last year Scotland, compared to a 42% drop in GB supply.

“Expansion remains the principal driver for purchase, and buyers’ aspirations have been boosted by favourable borrowing rates. However, buyers no longer hunger after additional acres at any cost – each purchase is carefully considered and there are huge disparities in prices being paid.”

So what does the future for farmland look like? As the Scottish Government has not yet provided full clarity on how Scotland’s farmers, particularly those in upland areas, are to be supported or subsidised post 2024, the situation is set to remain somewhat unclear.

Ms Channing commented: “Until there is clarity, and unless there is a compelling reason to purchase, we anticipate that many future buyers of agricultural and will set tight in 2019. But much will depend on individual circumstances and often it is family succession that drives decisions.

“Whatever comes down the line, we anticipate that there will be a proportion of farmers who will not have the appetite for a fundamental change in policy, and this could in turn potentially feed the supply chain.

“It is our expectation therefore that if supply increases significantly, the values of arable and grassland may come under pressure and we are likely to see land values soften. There is definitely a window of opportunity for those considering selling whilst supply remains low.”