AGRICULTURAL land values continued to decline at an accelerated rate last year, with Leinster and Connacht taking a bigger hit than Munster.
The results of a survey commissioned by the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute (IAVI) show that land values in Leinster and Connacht fell by 30-45pc last year, depending on size and the presence of entitlements, while Munster land values dropped by 20.5-28pc.
The survey, carried out for the IAVI by independent research economist Geoff Tucker, reveals that agricultural land values in both Leinster and Connacht fell by at least half when compared to 2007, while the Munster fall was more in the region of two-fifths.
As a result, the gap in agricultural land values between Leinster and Munster narrowed to between 11.8 and 19.5pc last year from a high of between 25.5 and 39.1pc in 2007.
Meanwhile, agricultural land in Connacht is now cheaper than Munster by an average of between 5.9 and 17pc. In 2007 it was 1.8-32.3pc more expensive.
The results of the survey also show that rents on agricultural land took a hit across all types and locations last year after registering some increases in 2008.
The biggest decline was for Connacht land used for sugar beet, maize and beans, which fell by almost 20pc, and tillage land, which fell by almost 19pc.
The average price per acre of a non-residential farm with no entitlements up to 100ac was €11,355/ac last year. The corresponding figure for the previous year was €17,796/ac.
In Munster, the figure was €10,014/ac last year compared to €13,512/ac in 2008. In Connacht, land under the same classification sold for €8,310/ac last year, dropping from €12,571/ac.
The findings for holdings of more than 100ac, again with no entitlements, were even more significant, the survey shows.
In Leinster, this stood at €9,779/ac last year, compared to €16,519 in 2008. In Connacht, the value of this type of holding fell from €14,624/ac in 2008 to €7,991/ac last year.
Though less dramatic, the corresponding figures for Munster stood at €8,511/ac last year, compared to €11,651/ac the previous year.
Conacre prices for tillage land in Leinster averaged €140/ac last year, compared with €165/ac in 2008, the survey reveals. In Munster, conacre prices fell from €168/ac to €151/ac. Again the drop was most significant in Connacht, where rented tillage land fell from €186/ac in 2008 to €151/ac last year.
Meanwhile, property consultants Knight Frank Ireland report that, while sales of Irish farmland fell significantly last year for the third year running, a "levelling off" is expected by the end of this year.