Town dwellers are pushing up the price of agricultural land as they buy places in the country, according to a study.
Farmers face being squeezed out
Non-farmers accounted for 51% of all UK land sales in the last quarter of 2003, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said.
Demand was strongest in the South East of England - at 65% - especially for land with a farm house on it.
Farmland sold for an average of £7,931 per hectare during the year, 7.3% more than in 2002, RICS said.
RICS rural spokesman Julian Sayers said: "The strong demand for property within the rural land market continues, albeit with activity highly skewed
towards residential farms in the South East."
He said: "We may well see this trend continue when City bonuses are announced."
Although demand for land with a residential property was highest, there was also increased demand for commercial farmland, particularly in the South East and East of England and the East Midlands.
RICS said that while the study suggested farmers were being squeezed out of the market, many sales of commercial farms and land remained on hold pending further details of how proposed new agricultural support will be brought in across Britain.
The group said there had been a continual drop in the amount of land for sale, with 55% more RICS members saying they had seen a reduction than those who
reported an increase.