Declan O'Brien(Irish independent)
A growing number of farm vendors in Britain are purposely targeting Irish buyers because land is so dear here and so relatively cheap over there.
FOUR (poor) farmers from the Republic are among the top bidders for a 400ac dairy unit in the west of Scotland.
It is understood that a milk producer from Munster has bid €3m for the property but the auctioneers believe that the farm could make in the region of €3.5m.
Three more farmers from the Republic, as well as 10 Northern Irish land-owners, are also in the running for the property.
Irish interest in the holding has been facilitated by the fact that the sale is being handled by Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, auctioneers Shee and Hawe.
"The number of enquiries for the farm from Ireland has been amazing," said Bill Madigan of Shee and Hawe.
"We've received a lot of calls from dairy farmers in the south but most of the interest is from Northern Ireland.
"We're getting 15 or 20 enquiries from Northern Ireland for every one from the South," Mr Madigan said.
The property, which is known as Dromore Farm, is located on the outskirts of Campbelltown on the Kintyre Peninsula. It is approximately 140 miles from Glasgow and 185 miles from Edinburgh.
The farm is a working dairy unit and comes with a residence and a full range of modern farm buildings. The lands are in two blocks. There are 300ac around the yards, with a further 100ac roughly a mile away.
For Irish farmers struggling to get their hands on milk, the property's 461,000gal quota is a serious attraction, as is the holding's Single Farm Payment, which is roughly €90,000. per annum.
Mr Madigan said that a growing number of farm vendors in Britain are purposely targeting Irish buyers who are flush with cash after selling land for one-off houses and to the state, for new highways etc.etc
"Land prices in Ireland are substantially higher than those in Britain and particularly Scotland. With quota available for as little as 1.5p/L and milk making the equivalent of 26c/L, buying in Britain is very attractive."
The Tipperary-based estate agent said the bulk of the southern interest in the Campbelltown holding has come from farmers who are milking cows on rented land.
"There are a lot of men out there who feel very vulnerable. They are milking up to 200 cows on around 100ac of land. They're being forced to take land on short-term leases; the prices are going up every year but they have to pay because if they fail to get the land they can't carry the cows," Mr Madigan explained. "They are cash rich but asset poor."
While moving to Britain is not really an option for many farmers, Mr Madigan said others are willing to take the chance.
"One of the fellows looking at the Campbelltown farm said to me that he reckoned he had 20 years good work left in him. He's willing to buy the place and work it for that length of time and he said if the town didn't swallow the farm in the meantime, then at least he'd have it to sell later."