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Latest tenancy figures confirm long-term trends

Scottish Land & Estates has long called for better data on agricultural tenancies in order to inform ongoing debate and in a useful move this week the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, together with the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association, published their first Agricultural Land Occupation Survey. 

This survey, based on a sample of units, provides a snapshot of agricultural land occupation and the decisions about the letting or occupation of agricultural land in Scotland in the year to November 30th 2012.
This Survey covers a total of 203 units on 107,254 acres. The units reported in the Survey comprise:
  • 87 new tenancies covering 23,183 acres 
  • 54 successions to existing tenancies covering 32,766 acres
  • 23 tenancies that ended and the land was not re-let covering 39,911 acres: 9 were taken in hand; 9 went to grazing agreements; 4 were put on contract farming agreements; 1 to an unknown arrangement. 
  • 16 further new contract farming agreements covering 8,682 acres 
  • 23 further new grazing agreements covering 2,712 acres 
Key points from the survey are: 
While a high proportion of the units that were let have again been re-let, the tenanted sector in Scotland continues to shrink because not all let land is re-let. 
  • The units that are not re-let are being taken in-hand or put on grazing arrangements, those uses taking a third and a quarter of the land area with the balance moving to contract farming.
  • The average size of a new tenancy is 266 acres. 
  • The average length of a new tenancy is 6.79 years but this varies with the previous tenure and level of fixed equipment for the unit: bare land at 4.04 years but house, land and buildings at 12.68 years; ex limited partnership tenancies at 14.00 years but former SLDTs at 4.17 years 
  •  New entrants took 23% of the lettings made where the farmer changed. The average length of letting was for 9.8 years and the average area was 351 acres. Half these lettings were of fully equipped units. 
The report also highlights some interesting comparisons with England and Wales. It suggests that the scale of land lost to the tenanted sector in Scotland has not been seen in England and Wales since the 1995 reforms. Also whereas, in Scotland, the area of previously let land being re-let is 33%, in England and Wales the re-let area is 75% of the total area. Again highlighting the different legislative regimes.
The report also raises important questions: 
  • If the let sector is to expand, that is most obviously achieved by attracting private owners who do not currently let to do so. With the historic move to owner occupation in the twentieth century, what would now encourage a significant number of retiring famers to let rather than sell their land? 
  • With the general interest in encouraging new entrants, how is this done within a shrinking sector when existing farmers (including recent new entrants) also need expansion opportunities? 
To access the report contact CAAV: 

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