The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) quarterly land survey, published this week, says that the proportion of farms being bought by farmers dropped from 43 per cent in the second quarter of 2003 to 41 per cent between July and September.
The number of transactions involving farmers remained steady at 45 per cent during the same period. The proportion of farmers buying agricultural land was lowest in the South East at 20 per cent.
The rise in non-farmers acquiring land took place against the backdrop of a record low level of transactions, which dropped by more than 70 per cent from 135 to 53 between the third quarter of 2002 and 2003. The total area bought and sold during the third quarter of this year fell to its lowest level for ten years.
The RICS attributed the low level of non-farmers buying agricultural land to continuing uncertainty over the reform of the EU's common agricultural policy. The price of land that is unlikely to attract any support following the current shake-up rose slightly in the 12 months to the end of September to £6,412 per hectare.
RICS rural spokesman Julian Sayers said: "There are going to be a lot of people seeking to extend their houses and add swimming pools and tennis courts."
The RICS Quarterly Rural Land Survey can be viewed via firstname.lastname@example.org.