None of the new lettings on the market went to new entrants
Scottish agricultural land available to let has fallen by 11,331 hectares (28,000 acres) over the past year, according to a survey by Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers (SAAVA) and Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).
Opportunities for new entrants were also limited, with none of the new lettings going to new entrants in 2016. Between 20 and 30 per cent of new lettings usually go to new starters.
Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser at CAAV, said: “2015 saw that rise to 50 per cent, perhaps for Basic Payment Scheme reasons, and that may be an influence on 2016.
“The more new lettings there are, the more opportunities there would be for new entrants and then, as importantly, for progressing farmers.”
The results confirm a downward trend, with let land having fallen by 35,612ha (88,000 acres) over the past five years.
“Of the let units that fell vacant in 2015, just a third were re-let, with the rest taken back in-hand or offered out on contract farming or other short-term arrangements while this year also saw a number of newly vacant units sold,” added Mr Moody.
Sixty five per cent of new lettings were bare land which, Mr Moody suggested, was a natural consequence of the ‘pressure for restructuring and the difficulty of justifying new investment in fixed equipment’.
“This shift is important for debate about policy, which often assumes that a holding will be a fully equipped farm with a house,” he said.
“It can no longer be assumed a holding is a self-contained farm – and the cost of rising expectations for the standards of agricultural housing may encourage this trend.”
He pointed to a Government review group which said letting land in Scotland was seen as a ‘high risk, low reward activity’ with alternative arrangements giving closer control, lower investment demand, fewer taxation issues and less exposure to political uncertainty.