Almost a third more farmland is coming to market in the East of England - but not because prices are rising, according to a land agent.

William Hargreaves - who leads the rural agency team for Savills in the East of England and is based in the firm’s Ipswich office - said farmers were selling up for a number of reasons.

They were offered a lump sum payment as their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) farm subsidy was phased out post-Brexit.

At the same time, delinked payments came into force at the start of 2024 as part of the phase-out.

East Anglian Daily Times: Farmers and landowners will have an important role to play if the UK is to meet its net zero

They will reduce each year and end in 2027 and aren't linked to any land or entitlements but instead to past BPS payments made to individual farmers.

They have also seen dramatic rises in costs and more weather and price volatility.

“The early exit scheme, introduced to encourage farmer retirements, along with the gradual tapering of the basic payment scheme, exacerbated by higher costs and a drop in commodity prices – leading to lower margins, appear to have encouraged some farmers to reassess their options," he explained.

"While some are changing the way they run their farms, others are using the opportunity to leave the industry.”

East Anglian Daily Times:

Savills' quarterly farmland survey by Savills shows that 4,300 acres of farmland were publicly marketed in the East of England in the first three months of 2024 – a 28% rise year on year.

But farmland values have remained pretty static compared to the end of last year, he suggested, and are still sitting at just over £10,000/acre for prime arable land.

Across Great Britain as a whole, 24,800 acres of farmland were openly marketed between January and March this year – a 44% rise on the year before and the first time the market has exceeded 20,000 acres since 2016, according to Savills.

The North of England and South West saw the most land come to market, with 5,300 and 4,400 acres respectively.

“Very few transactions have been completed so far this year, so it is difficult to demonstrate that overall average farmland values have changed much from the end of last year. We expect greater clarity as more land comes to the market throughout the year," said Will.

“The quality of a farm’s infrastructure, however, remains a strong influence on price. Farms with commercial scale fields, easy access and good-quality buildings suited to modern agriculture are tending to attract more interest and competition.

“Another wet autumn and spring also means buyers are scrutinising drainage carefully and, for some buyers, free-draining land generally will be favoured unless yields are seriously impacted in drier weather.

"On heavier soils, where productivity is dependent on underdrainage, records and quality of drainage are becoming more important and will be factored into offers given the expense of investing in new field drainage systems.

“Similarly, the security of water supplies for irrigating specialist cropping is coming under greater scrutiny, as are the potential financial benefits landowners can receive through stewardship schemes – peatland rewetting, flood alleviation, nutrient neutrality and more active water meadow management for example – all of which offer alternative financial returns.”