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Sales of dairy farms were few and far between this year, despite the improved prognosis for milk payouts.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show that 1295 farms changed hands for the year to November, down 12.8% on last year.
Only eight dairy farms changed hands in November, compared to 30 in November last year. Over the quarter, sales were down a full 55% and a whopping 83% on 2017 numbers.
Finishing farms fared better, but were still down 23.4%.
Both grazing and arable farm sales stayed stable.
The median price per hectare for all farms sold for the quarter was $25,190 per hectare, down 17% on the $30,411 recorded for the same period last year.
According to the institute, the average sales price per hectare for dairy farms was $39,678 (16 properties), compared to $50,964 (36 properties) for the three months ended November 2018.
The median dairy farm size for the three months ended November 2019 was 104 hectares.
Institute spokesman Brian Peacocke said the numbers reflected a 55% drop in the dairy category on last year, but 83% down on the 2017 figures.
The dairy numbers were counter-intuitive to the improving farm-gate milk price forecasts and positive growing conditions.
Reasons for the downturn related to compliance regulation, quality of labour and tightening of credit in the banking sector.
"Greater returns for the banks can be generated from increased investment in the residential and commercial sectors, hence the downward pressure on ... the agriculture sector.
"This was in spite of record prices that were being generated for output from the beef, lamb, mutton, venison and horticulture sectors, which had also benefited from a great spring."
Mr Peacocke said grazing farms had accounted for a 33% share of all sales over the three months to November 2019, finishing farms accounted for 28%, horticulture were at 13%, and arable properties accounted for 12% of all sales.
"It is only the cautious dairy sector that is currently struggling in terms of sales, land values and demand, with a bare eight sales of dairy farms throughout New Zealand for the month of November 2019, compared to 30 in November 2018 and 36 in November 2017."