The total area of land offered up for sale in NI has continued to decline, records kept by the Irish Farmers Journal indicate.

There were 11,811 acres publicly advertised for sale during 2020, down 12% on 2019 levels and 27% on 2018. Across the total arable and grassland area in NI, the area publicly offered for sale during the year equates to just 0.56%.

The tight supply is a key factor underpinning strong prices paid for land in NI. Reports from auctioneers indicate that demand among buyers held up throughout the year.

The first coronavirus lockdown affected the market earlier in the year, with the total area for sale running 19% behind 2019 levels at the end of June. However, more land than usual came on the market during the summer, which closed the year-on-year difference to 12% by the autumn.

According to Omagh-based auctioneer Keith Pollock, improved financial returns across farming sectors led to more farmer activity in the land market during the year.

“There was uncertainty in the market early on, but once it stabilised, sales performed very well and the year finished off strong,” he said.

Lot size

There were 420 lots advertised in NI during 2020, down from 480 lots in 2019. The average lot size remains relatively unchanged at 28 acres.

Across all NI counties, Fermanagh had the largest proportion of its grassland and arable area offered up for sale at 0.88%. There were 2,343 acres publicly advertised in Fermanagh, up 28% year on year. The Erne County also had the biggest average lot size at 34 acres.

Down had the largest total area on the market at 2,720 acres, down 16% year on year and representing 0.69% of its total land area. The sharpest fall in land supply during 2020 was in Tyrone, where the 2,096 acres is 37% lower than in 2019.

Armagh continues to have the lowest supply of land publicly offered up, representing just 0.29% of its total grassland and arable area. Overall, there were 651 acres for sale, down 14% on 2019 levels, and its average lot size was also the smallest in NI at 14 acres.

In Derry, 1,518 acres were publicly advertised, down 31% on 2019. The total area for sale in Antrim was 14% lower during 2020 and stood at 2,484 acres.

Hill land

The outlined figures do not include land sold privately, or any lots that could not be described as either arable, suitable for silage or good quality grazing ground.

A separate set of records for hill ground and rough grazing indicates 2,959 acres were offered up for sale in 2020, down 9% year on year. The average lot size was 106 acres, which is up from 70 acres during 2019.