County Armagh has most expensive farmland in Ireland
County Armagh has the most expensive agricultural land in the whole of Ireland, according to new research.
A survey by the Irish Farmers Journal showed that the average land price in the county jumped by 19% last year to £13,341 per acre, which is significantly higher than the most expensive farm land in England.
Real estate agent Savills says the north of England has the highest price tag for land at £9,809/acre - £3,537 less than Armagh's average.
And the Journal used 2017's average exchange rate of 88p per Euro to find that Armagh's average land price was £1,003 per acre higher than the second-most expensive county in Ireland, Kildare.
According to the Journal, the average land price in Northern Ireland was down slightly by 0.7% last year to £9,750.
Savills' research also showed that, as of December 2017, the average price per acre across England was £7,515, while in Wales this figure was £5,349 and in Scotland it was £4,246.
The best quality land in Britain is classified as "prime arable" and, in the north of England, this type of land is the most expensive at £9,809 - only just over £50/acre more than the NI average.
Garry Best of Best Property Services, who has a background in farming and specialises in land valuation, said many successful business owners are now buying land, in some cases to avoid paying inheritance tax.
"We would certainly find that the further we get away from the recession, the more businesses are starting to improve and this leads to more buyers coming around," he said.
"Maybe they were brought up on a farm and are now in business, or maybe they just have an attraction to agricultural land for inheritance tax purposes.
"Invariably there is a strong demand from people in business who can afford to buy land, and in this area there is never enough land for all those that want it. Inevitably prices get driven up.
"Most of what would be selling is good land, there hasn't been much poor-to-rough stock. It's generally all high quality.
"So there's top quality land and a demand for it, but the supply isn't necessarily very strong, so the people who want it know that when the opportunity arises near them, they've got to give it their best shot."
One key factor driving land sales in Northern Ireland is a limited supply of land coming on the market. Less than 0.5% of NI's total agricultural land was publicly advertised last year, according to the Journal.
The Ulster Farmers' Union says it is not surprised by the figures.
"Land is a finite resource. There is a limited supply of farm land coming on to the market. Supply and demand principles apply," said UFU president Barclay Bell.
"Inevitably when the demand for land exceeds what is available, prices rise and this has been the case in agriculture for many years."