Riverina farmland fetching a premium as investors and neighbours snatch up in-demand land

Rural property prices have surged across the region, marking a resurgence in the farming sector.

Wagga-based valuer Chris Egan said there was a strong demand for land, both from local farmers and the so-called “corporate farmers”.

“Most farmers are wanting to expand their operations to take advantage of economies of scale, but they’re competing with the corporate sector,” Mr Egan said. “We’ve seen unprecedented demand and a lack of supply that’s driving prices.”

While foreign and corporate ownership of farms remained somewhat contentious, Mr Egan pointed out it still had a positive impact on local economies.

“They can’t take the land with them,” he said. “The labour, the spray, the fuel, that all comes from our towns and that brings jobs.”

Across the Riverina, that demand had resulted in renewed interest in not only grapes and citrus but also almonds, which were one of the standout performers despite recent frost damage to crops.

Brian Simpson from the Wine Grapes Marketing Board said steady growth in the US and China wine markets had driven prices of Riverina grapes, which in turn pushed land values up.

It’s a welcome change for the grape industry, after low prices in recent years had seen some farmers sell up while others ploughed crops into the ground.

“It still depends what varieties are being grown, but the tide is slowly turning,” he said. “The yields this year have been lower than previous years, so not everyone is banking money but the renewed interest has seen some people take over blocks and we’ve seen more winery acquisitions of vineyards.”

However, it’s farmers in the Cootamundra and Wallendbeen areas that are the real winners, with prices of between $3500 and $4500 per acre according to Landmark’s Bob Holder.

“This is good land, it’s got to go up (in price), they’re not making any more of it,” Mr Holder said. “It’s going to get dearer too, it hasn’t hit the top yet.”