Australian farmland property prices continued their climb in 2022, capping a remarkable four-year lift across the nation.
Our table of 100 property sales (below) shows an incredible array of properties selling for strong prices and to surging demand from all categories of buyers, from the corporate sector looking at large-scale northern and central Australia properties to lifestyle buyers seeking a few hectares to run a small herd of cattle.
Crunching the numbers of our 100 property sales has revealed:
The top price reported by ACM agricultural mastheads was an estimated $380 million for Mark Menegazzo's Gulf Coast Agricultural Company's 1.1 million-hectare sale spread across four adjoining cattle stations, sold to prominent NSW irrigators Peter and Jane Harris.
The highest per hectare/acre price was a 13-hectare lifestyle property at Oberon, which fetched $96,538 a hectare, or $30,084 an acre.
For properties of scale, the highest per hectare price was $48,078 ($19,565 an acre) for 1300 hectares of vineyards in Loxton, South Australia, and Pomona, NSW, which sold for $62.5 million.
This month the Anderson family's Rossander Angus sold its 955-hectare grazing property on the outskirts of Warrnambool, Victoria, for an estimated $35-$40 million. That equated to $36,649-$41,885 a hectare, or $14,856-$16,778 an acre.
For cropping properties, the highest per hectare price was a district record of $36,351, or $14,7000 an acre, for a 129-hectare block at Noradjuha, near Horsham, in Victoria.
The 201-hectare Culverly Rise near Albury, NSW, was a close second, at $35,373 a hectare ($14,355 an acre).
The cheapest price per hectare was $68-$97 a hectare, or $27-$39 an acre for the Northern Territory's Mount Doreen Station, which covered 733,700 hectares or 1,813,012 acres. It sold for $50-$70 million to Crown Point Pastoral Company, a partnership of the Costello and Oldfield families.
Other significant sale highlights of the year included:
- The sale of mining giant Shenhua's final parcel of 17,160 hectares on NSW's Liverpool Plains for about $120 million.
- A Victorian dairy property at Labertouche in West Gippsland fetching an estimated $14,000 an acre.
- Cattle-industry stalwart Greg Upton selling his Northern Tableland properties in NSW for $70-$80 million, which was believed to have included 4000 cattle.
- A district record price of $22 million for the 631-hectare grazing property Binbrook at Lucindale, South Australia. This equated to $14,112 an acre.
- Cowal Agriculture's 5976 hectare Queensland Central Highlands irrigation operation selling for more than $120 million.
- The sale of the 11,260-hectare Yarrabee Park in NSW's Riverina by corporate giant goFARM to another corporate player Daybreak Cropping for an estimated $60 million.
Grazing or grazing/cropping properties were by far the biggest sale sector, with 72 properties in our listing fitting that description.
CBRE Agribusiness managing director David Goodfellow said while 2021 saw cropping country values rise dramatically, it was the turn of grazing to hit its straps in 2022.
Mr Goodfellow said this was due to croppers being able to generate income within 12 months of a drought breaking, while graziers needed at least 2-3 seasons to rebuild herds after the widespread drought of recent years.
"Coming out of a drought, typically croppers get money in their bank accounts much quicker than graziers, so what we saw in 2021 was a massive increase in cropping land values, but in 2022 we are seeing a massive increase in grazing land values," Mr Goodfellow said.
These results in our table also represented a year in which the median sale price for rural property across Australia broke the $1 million mark for the first time, according to Elders.
And the number of transactions greater than $20 million increased by 65.4 per cent in 2021-22, according to the company's tracking of farmland property deals over the past five years.
The national median price per hectare increased by 11.2 per cent in April-June this year, compared to the first three months of 2022, according to the most recent Elders Rural Property update. That took the national quarterly median price to $8,158 per hectare.
Elders head of Agribusiness Mark Barber described 2022 as a "pretty solid year" for rural property.
"I can't see a significant drop off in trends for the second half of the year," Mr Barber said.
He said while recent widespread floods had potential to cause some disruption, interest rates, higher input costs -bought on by the war in Ukraine - and supply-chain issues had failed to dint the enthusiasm for farmland investment.
He said this was due to agriculture being a reliable investment, even in times of "micro-economic uncertainty"
"The resilience of the sector as an investable asset class has made farmland not a bad place to be".
Mr Barber said we may look back at 2022 as the year in which the rate of increase slowed, but property prices remained high.
CBRE's David Goodfellow said investment was flowing into agriculture as a hedge against inflation, with most signs pointing to commodity-price rises, while interest rate rises were not hitting the sector hard, as rural property lending did not carry the level of gearing of residential or urban commercial investment.
Ray White chief economist Nerida Conisbee said a slow-down in commodity prices may slow property prices.
"Overall agricultural production value is likely to remain at historically high levels but will be lower than those experienced in 2021/22 and this will impact farm values," Ms Conisbee said.