In this article we aim to lay out some sound farmland investment advice for those considering adding agricultural land to their investment portfolio. With many different areas on the table currently, from the Ukraine to Australia and the UK, and many different investment strategies from purchase & leaseback to revenue share, it is vitally important for the investor to understand the different risks involved with each strategy, and be comfortable that the investment that they choose fits neatly with their requirements.
Farmland Investment Strategies
When giving farmland investment advice to clients, it is important for me that they understand that there are a number of different strategies to take advantage of the value and income that a well placed farmland investment can add to a portfolio. Firstly, one must consider the location of the land itself, internationally speaking. My advice for clients remain consistent in this area; there are areas of opportunity all over the world from Sub-Saharan Africa, through the Americas, Australasia, and Europe, and the first piece of farmland investment advice: invest only in countries in which you have a good understanding Invest in Ukraine of the legal and political framework under which you will be buying. If you speak Ukrainian, invest in the Ukraine, if you speak only English, buy only in the UK, Australia, or the Americas. This very simple rule will protect you and your assets from making serious and costly mistakes and is an excellent piece of advice to start narrowing down your farmland investment criteria.
Secondly, either gain a basic understanding of how agriculture works in your chosen country, or partner with an experienced Advisor who will earn every penny of their fee by guiding you through the process ensuring you do not invest in something with little or no value. For example, many investors are considering an investment into Australian farmland, and if this is the case it is important to understand that farms in Australia are much larger than those in Europe and average perhaps 2,000 hectares. These farms are rain-fed and yields will vary across the whole of the land, and whilst yields are much lower than in the UK for example, the land is very well priced when considered from the point of view of the investor, giving total yields of around 15%. Farms in Australia generally have croppable land in excess of 80% of land area with many properties being above 95% of total land area. Generally speaking, despite a lower yield per hectare, Australian farms actually have a higher percentage of productive land than do most farms in the UK or western Europe. Australian farmland is transacted on the basis that any non-arable land is useless and does not have a value, it is therefore not included in the sale price, This ensures that all land actually paid for is productive land.
The next piece of farmland investment advice I would normally bestow upon a new client is very simple indeed; ensure that you receive value for money, do not part with capital until you have a regulated valuation for the land that you are buying. Making sure this is in place ensures that a qualified and suitable person has already performed the required due diligence to measure the true value of the land. Do not simply buy land at a price set buy the vendor, buy land at a price set by a regulated Chartered Surveyor, keeping to this simple piece of farmland investment advice will ensure that you always receive value for money.
The final piece advice that I will advocate in this article is to make you aware of the various strategies to consider. The options available to the investor range from leasing the land to a commercial farmer, capturing income in the form of quarterly rent, taking income from the production of crops, or a halfway house between the two taking a revenue share plus a top-up rental payment. In my opinion most investors are considering farmland investment due to the fact that they require a low-risk, income producing asset that is likely to grow in value quicker than inflation, this being the case, I would always choose the lowest risk option, that being leasing the land to a commercial farmer for a rental payment. Whilst this does mean that the owner will not benefit from peaks in commodity prices, it also means that if prices fall, or the farmer is incompetent and fail to pay rent, then they can be evicted and a new farmer installed. Also, farming occupancy rates in the UK run close to 100% therefore it is unlikely that the investor will suffer a break in income.