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...and so from 2022 …to 2023…

In the annals of time, I wonder what memories of this year will be recorded? The death of Queen Elizabeth ll … the Ukraine war … UK politics and economics … the Qatar World Cup?

For us in the rural and property world, will it be any sort of threshold that we find we have crossed? For most of the year, values and the market have remained strong, but at the latter end, with interest rates rising and Banks and Mortgage providers dictating what support the customer can get (totally the wrong way round in my view) there are signs that property prices will wane. Yet for agricultural land it seems steady. £10,000 per acre isn’t being questioned – although in particular instances it may be more or less. There still seems to be considerable wealth available in this country, and still an appetite to own land.

The farming of land itself may also be going through a metamorphosis, with plenty of comment about ‘rewilding’ and habitat and even carbon sequestration – predominantly from those who may own land but who are not themselves ‘hands on’ farmers. Traditional farmers have always respected and encouraged such policies anyway, as they know best what their land can provide and how to enhance it – they and their families have been doing just that for hundreds of years. But most farmers still value food production, and the turmoil caused by Russia has in some quarters reminded people that food is (literally) vital. There are of course many in the population who take food for granted, assuming it will always be readily and plentifully available in the shops and who give no thought to where it has come from.

Farmers by and large have had a good 2022 – prices for their products are higher, as are their profits. Next year will be different as input costs have escalated – but if the output prices stay up, then there is still a profitable scenario. Many farmers have at the same time diversified, so have found ways to supplement their income, whatever the fate, or future, of BPS or CSS etc may be.

But size matters: units are getting bigger and small working holdings continue to be on the decline – as far as their contribution to serious food production is concerned. It is becoming an increasingly commercial venture involving high investment, even if including ‘green’ energy, which can only really be sustained by size, if capital isn’t otherwise available. Family farming declines – which is such a shame, for reasons given already – a farmer knows his farm best due to the generations of knowledge invested in it; the family who farms makes an enormous contribution to the rural community in which they live. Time will tell whether this change is detrimental to the country and our countryside.

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