Cream rises to the top with farm sales
PROPERTY: Demand for dairy farms is buoyant, especially those with a track record of environmental stewardship
The latest Bayleys’ Rural Market Update for the dairy sector compiled by its Insights & Data team points to buyer confidence, buoyant demand, and a positive outlook for the 12 months ahead on the back of strong long-run milk prices and global demand for New Zealand products.
REINZ figures show the total value of dairying land sold across New Zealand exploded in the 12 months to March 31, 2022, to $1.524 billion — more than double the value sold in the 2020-21 period, Bayleys national director rural Nick Hawken says.
“In total, 40,958 hectares of dairying land was sold nationwide in 2021-22 according to REINZ,” Hawken said. “Bayleys’ transactional data shows traditional dairying areas like Waikato continue to dominate, however Southland and Canterbury have seen a surge and are now a significant part of the national picture.”
“Higher dairy prices in the commodity market have actively improved farm profitability which in turn has increased the appeal of dairy land for buyers, including investment entities and private investors that have diversified their portfolios to include dairy assets.”
Hawken said confidence was back in the market from both an investor and lending perspective, with sophisticated market fundamentals coming into play.
“The dairy industry was starved of liquidity for many years, but has seen solid returns since 2019 largely because of elevated commodity prices, but underpinned by the wider intelligence of the industry.
“Dairy farmers today have a far better understanding of how their day-to-day operations can influence the supply chain.
“When multinationals like Nestle´ double-down on responsible sourcing programmes prioritising carbon neutrality and an ethically-produced ingredients policy, it is clear that the game is changing and farm owners and investors recognise this.
“Those investing in the dairy sector continue to chase solid commodity prices and returns, but are also increasingly attracted to the underlying fundamentals of the industry, understanding that they are investing in a high-value nutrition market that has longevity.
“As a result, there have been increased levels of capital flowing from both the debt and equity markets into dairy.”
From an investor and lender standpoint, the spotlight remains focused on the dairy industry’s environmental impact and Hawken said proven stewardship was currency in the property market.
“Come transaction time, those dairy farms with a well-documented track record of environmental stewardship and with a sound carbon philosophy are likely to reap the rewards,” Hawken said.
“As buyers become increasingly cautious about environmental standards, saleability increases for farms with A-grade environmental audits and/or are on track to meet long-term targets, with banks supportive of wellcapitalised dairy businesses with sound supporting data.”
Hawken said strong cash yields in the dairy sector had enabled capital investment on-farm, seen some farm owners on the acquisition trail for neighbouring properties to improve efficiencies, and helped reduce the burden of environmental compliance.
“However, we need to acknowledge that while, farmgate returns are looking rosy, there are challenges in the broader market given inflationary headwinds, rising operating costs, staffing shortages interest rate uncertainty. The emphasis on the Future Maintainable Production Equation (FMPE) continues as margins are squeezed, but for now, it seems there is some freeboard above the waterline for most operators.”