Tuesday 1 April 2008

Follow the Farmers - You'll Not Go Too Far Wrong

There may be an element of Irish society that looks down on farmers and the agriculture industry in general. A tendency, perhaps, to label the industry as being one that attracts only those who aren't qualify to do anything else - and there being a farm in the family, that was where they ended up.

Those active in the overseas property industry would seek to differ ... completely. In this industry farmers are considered to be some of the brightest, most daring, most innovative and, ultimately, most successful investors in the country.

Before any of the rest of us had even considered looking across the seas for alternative investment opportunities, the agricultural community were way ahead of us. You will find that farmers have been the bedrock of nearly every syndicate not launched by the financial institutions, and some launched by them as well. You'll find farmers, along with accountants, to the fore in launching, organising and running small scale, and some larger scale, syndicates right across the country - because they know the value of good quality commercial property.

Many of you will ask, why is this? It's simple - necessity is the mother of invention. The farming community, apart from those with huge farms, haven't been able to make ends meet for nearly 20 years now. Dropping commodity prices allied to rising input prices have meant that most farmers have found it almost impossible to make a living. Ironically, this is at a time when the capital value of these farmers has been soaring, as the price of land has gone through the roof. As I said, the farming community is not slow to harness their skills to sort out such ironies. Thousands of farmers across the country have borrowed substantial amounts of money against their farms, consequently investing it in 'off-farm investments', predominantly overseas property.

You may say, "sure it's easy for them, aren't they sitting on a fortune" but this would be to underestimate the risks they have taken. If their investments don't pay they lose their farms. And whatever Irish farmers will put up with, losing land isn't one of them. The upshot is that farmers tend to do their maths very asiduously before taking that leap of faith. They have a proven track record of being able to spot money-making property opportunities and go for them with gusto.

So the next time you see farmer Pat driving down the road in his brand-new top-of-the-range Toyota 4x4, instead of thinking "he's milking us all dry with his payments from Europe", you might consider "fair dues to him, fortune favours the brave."


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