The Chinese exodus from the east coast beef, lamb and cropping sectors is gathering pace, with recent divestments by Rifa Salutary and Union Agriculture surpassing $50 million.
In their place, local pastoral groups and offshore funds from North America and Europe are taking up the opportunity to expand their food production capabilities by buying some of the best farmland in the country.
In the latest deal, an offshore investor-backed fund has acquired Rifa’s 4390-hectare Kulwin Park in western Victoria’s Southern Mallee for almost $10 million.
The property, which lies about 65 kilometres south of Swan Hill, has been used for dryland cropping and historically planted to barley, grazing oats and hay.
It follows Rifa selling its only Victorian livestock property, the 2406-hectare Blackwood Station in the Western District to renowned barrister Allan Myers’ Dunkeld Pastoral Company.
Its understood Dunkeld Pastoral, a large-scale producer of lamb, mutton, beef and wool, paid almost double the previous selling price of $14.5 million when Rifa acquired Blackwood Station from the Ritiche family in 2014.
Selling agent Danny Thomas from CBRE Agribusiness declined to comment. Dunkeld Pastoral was also contacted for comment.
Sales processes for Rifa’s three NSW hubs – Ashleigh Station, Middlebrook and Cooplacurripa – are understood to be at an advanced stage.
Rifa, a subsidiary of Chinese manufacturing and investment giant Zhejiang Rifa Holding Group, hopes to secure more than $150 million for its portfolio.
It put its entire business up for sale in July after plunging to a $12.4 million after-tax loss in the year to March 2019. This, it said, was “mainly due to the ongoing drought conditions experienced across Australia”.
Just across the NSW-Victoria border east of Wodonga, another major Chinese player in the beef sector, Union Agriculture, sold its Mount Falcon cattle station near Tooma for more than $13.2 million at auction. Mount Falcon previously sold for $7 million in 2011.
The 2800-hectare property, considered to be one of the upper Murray’s top beef enterprises, was bought by an as yet unnamed Australian family with local interests in the region.
Included in the sale was an Angus cattle breeding herd with Wagyu bulls.
Mount Falcon was marketed by Colliers International and Inglis Rural Property.
“We had 60 inquiries and 23 inspections throughout the campaign and interest was very strong particularly from drought-affected farmers looking for grass,” said Colliers’ Henry Mackinnon.
“Demand for properties with high rainfall continues to be strong, along with land values continuing to exceed market expectations.
“This is underpinned by a number of factors including current livestock prices, increase in demand for protein, and low interest rates.”
Sam Triggs from Inglis Rural Property Sales said domestic buyers from Queensland, Victoria and NSW along with overseas parties had bid on the property.
“The sale of the property demonstrated the strong demand and depth in the market for high rainfall and quality assets – rainfall is front of mind due to the dry conditions in eastern Australia,” he said.
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