NZ farm sales fall 11% in March quarter as mycoplasma bovis keeps farmers nervous
By Paul McBeth
April 23 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand farm sales fell 11 percent in the March quarter from a year earlier, as the mycoplasma bovis cattle disease outbreak weighed on purchasing intentions and spanned a period where smaller plots of rural land were captured by the regime to screen foreign buyers.
Some 388 farms were sold at a median price of $27,428 per hectare in the three months ended March 31, down from 438 farms at a median price of $27,509/ha in 2017, Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show. Fewer dairy and grazing farms accounted for the drop, with gains in finishing farm sales coinciding with strong prices for beef and lamb meat.
"Farmers attitudes are reflecting improving morale and a cautious degree of confidence," Reinz rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said in a statement. "The caution referred to relates to the inexorable demands of the range of compliance issues, and the far-reaching tentacles of the invidious livestock disease, mycoplasma bovis, which is sapping the financial and social resources of those within the livestock and property-owning chain who have been affected."
The outbreak of mycoplasma bovis last year prompted the Ministry for Primary Industries to order several dozen farms be locked down, and about 22,000 livestock will be slaughtered to control the spread of the disease.
Today's figures show dairy-heavy regions Waikato, Northland and Taranaki posted the biggest declines in farm sales, although Canterbury and West Coast registered gains, as did horticulture-focused Bay of Plenty.
Farm sales during the latest March quarter fall under a ministerial director to the Overseas Investment Office for all land purchases over five hectares to come in the screening regime, whereas in the prior period only farms deemed to be large fell under the agency's scrutiny.
Separately, Reinz figures showed lifestyle block sales rose 12 percent in the March quarter to 1,716, with the median sale price up 3.6 percent to $647,500.
A joint Statistics New Zealand-Ministry for the Environment report last week on the state of the country's land showed urbanisation and the fragmentation of rural land for lifestyle blocks had swallowed up some of the nation's most versatile and productive land, prompting Environment Minister David Parker to order officials start work on a national policy statement for versatile land and high-class soils.