Australian farmers find a silver lining spot a chance to sell

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The Independent Online

The disastrous state of British farming is bringing a boom to the Australian property market caused by farmers trying to escape foot-and-mouth disease and the legacy of BSE.

The disastrous state of British farming is bringing a boom to the Australian property market caused by farmers trying to escape foot-and-mouth disease and the legacy of BSE.

Agents are reporting demand from Britain so intense that it is fast pushing up prices for ranches in the Outback. But even with price inflation, Australian farms remain relatively cheap and they are proving highly attractive to young British farmers facing bleak prospects at home.

Australian agents, who are advertising in British publications for buyers, say the combination of cheap land and disease-free animals has brought a marked increase in inquiries from the UK.

One agent, Russell Wolff, said the past four months had been his best yet, with British farmers contributing to sales of 10m Australian dollars (£3.5m).

"The main reason they are interested is that they can buy land in Australia which is good quality and disease-free and their dollar goes two and a half times further. Australian beef is clean and green. In Britain the industry is getting land-locked and the cost per kilo to produce is getting expensive, whereas Australia is still relatively cheap," he said.

Dick Alpass, a property consultant, said: "We have even started advertising in Farmers Weekly in the UK in response to the interest from British farmers. By comparison to British prices, you can get very good cattle country here for much less than you'd pay in Britain ­ with none of the disease problems."

One recent advert offered a 8,970-acre grain and cattle farm in Queensland for a starting price of £1.2m. In comparison, an Essex farm of seven acres, including a five-bedroom house, was on sale for £450,000.

Johann Tasker, news editor of Farmers Weekly, said there was steady interest in emigrating, which had traditionally been to Canada but was now spreading to Australia, where land was "dirt cheap", and eastern Europe. Younger farmers in particular were looking abroad to escape the prohibitive costs of setting up in Britain.

Rupert Wager, a 25-year-old who has gone into sheep farming and hoped to break even for the first time next year, said he had decided to go to Australia if his flock of 400 was infected by foot-and-mouth.

Mr Wager, whose Northamptonshire farm is in an area so far free of the disease, said: "The land out there is so cheap that, with the money I would need to buy just the land for a 500-acre farm here, I could have 10,000 acres and kit it out.

"The average age of farmers here is 55 and nobody young is coming into it. I made a decision to come in but I am having second thoughts. There is certainly talk of why battle on here when you can go to another country and get a better start."

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