As crisis after crisis devastates the British countryside, Australian estate agents are processing increasing numbers of applications from British farmers wishing to buy land.

Property agents have revealed that the farmers are looking to emigrate permanently, and ask specifically for disease-free land, which costs around half the price of farmland in Britain.

Mick Keogh, policy director of the New South Wales (NSW) Farmers' Association, commented that because of the low prices, beleaguered British farmers who have lost incomes through BSE and foot and mouth can still afford to buy land in Australia: "They could buy a reasonable priced property here where they would be comfortable. It may not be as lucrative, but it is a good answer for them. Four hundred acres [162 hectares] in Britain is considered a paddock in Australia. This means UK farmers could still sell their farms and make a significant profit in moving to Australia."

Elders Real Estate, the largest rural land agent in Australia, says enquiries from Britain have doubled over the past month. "We always have a steady trickle of inquiries from the UK, but in the last few weeks we have more than double the amount, and the inquiries are not from people just looking, they are from people who are wanting to buy," revealed John Peden, manager of the NSW area.

"We put down [the substantial increase] to difficulties with mad cow disease and more recently the pressure of foot-and-mouth disease," he added. The low dollar and robustness of Australia's domestic cattle and wool industries are other important pull factors.

"These are not the poor farmer we are talking about who are selling up and moving to Australia," explained Peden. "It's more about a feeling that there must be a better way to operate agriculture than to work under the kind of pressure that these diseases are creating."

Farmers from Britain who are seriously considering emigrating and buying farmland must apply for a business migration visa or a skilled migration visa.