Farm sales for the three months ending in June were down almost 20 percent on the same period last year, according to new data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).
Overall there were 261 farm sales across the country over the three-month period, 61 less (18.9 percent) than 2019.
Total farm sales this year to the end of June number 1154, which is 13.9 percent fewer than were sold over the same period in 2019, the data shows.
During that time, sales of dairy farms were down 28.9 percent, grazing farms down 19.2 percent and finishing farms down 21.9 percent. There was a 7.7 percent rise in the number of arable farms sold.
The median price per hectare for all farms sold in the three months to June 2020 was $23,136, compared to $22,044 recorded for three months ended June 2019 (+5.0 percent).
"The slide in sale numbers poses a pertinent question - are numbers going to stabilise at the current level, or is the downward trend going to continue?" said Brian Peacocke, rural spokesperson for REINZ.
"Should it be the latter, given the range of issues currently impacting on the rural sector, not the least being the need for youthful rejuvenation of the farm ownership structure, it could be that an avalanche of potential sales is building up behind an earthen dam.
"Should the dam burst, what is the likely impact on farm values - will values increase, stabilise or decrease?"
Peacocke said regardless of the outcome it was clear that the "the current average return on investment for those with investment in the rural sector will need to improve or there will be a decreasing incentive for attracting much needed, affordable capital into the agricultural sector".
Only four of the 14 regions covered by the data - West Coast, Auckland, Taranaki and Wellington - recorded an increase in sales over the three-month period.
Waikato had the biggest drop in sales, followed by Manawatu/Wanganui.
The figures from REINZ showed a steady decline in total farm sales from 2015, when there were 479 properties sold.