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Buying farmland is one of the Telegraph's top 20 ways to profit from the downturn

There may be only a few bottles of champagne left as the holidays slide to an end, but is it worth cracking them open to wish the property market a prosperous 2011?

(Source: www.telegraph.co.uk, 30 Dec 2010)

Prices per acre of farm land have shot up by 120% over the past five years, according to property specialist Savills, as domestic and overseas investors seek to cash in.

But increasingly they find the farmhouse door is shut in their faces as farmers sit tight and watch their chief asset rise in value.

“Why sell?” said Savills director Christopher Miles. “Agricultural land is like gold, but with a cash flow as well.” This is good news for celebrity landowners such as Elizabeth Hurley, who has a 400-acre farm in Gloucestershire, and Guy Ritchie, with a 1,100-acre estate in neighbouring Wiltshire.

It makes a welcome change for farmers whose industry has been battered in the past 20 years by mad cow disease, foot and mouth and low food prices.

The end of the cheap food era and associated panics about 'food security' have been a major factor in propelling the average price of farm land.

Elsewhere, a change in the law making it more attractive for older farmers to rent to tenant farmers rather than sell up and a new reluctance of the courts to break up a farm when its owners divorce, are keeping land off the market, thus maintaining high prices.

The fact the average farmer has little debt removes a key incentive to sell, said Miles.

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