Belgian sugar producer Finasucre has acquired Australia’s largest portfolio of macadamia orchards in a deal worth almost $60 million.
The 1018-hectare Winfield Road aggregation, about 57 kilometres north of Bundaberg, includes 644 hectares of mature macadamia orchards and a highly valuable 1838 megalitres of secure water licences.
The vendor was Boston-based Hancock Agricultural Group, which manages $US3.1 billion ($4.5 billion) of agricultural farmland assets on behalf of its institutional investors. Its local operations are led by Andrew Strahley.
Property records show Hancock’s local entity, Ironbark Farming Company, sold the macadamia aggregation – spread across 10 properties and 18 titles – to Finasucre’s TQ Holdings for $59.2 million.
Rawdon Briggs, Tim Altschwager and Trenton Hindman from Colliers International brokered the sale on behalf of Hancock, but declined to comment on the deal because of a confidentiality agreement.
The record-breaking sale comes amid growing global demand and rising prices for macadamia nuts and products.
At the top end of the market, values have increased to about $100,000 per mature orchard hectare, up from $85,000 at the end of 2018, according to valuation firm Herron Todd White.
Macadamia nuts are native to Queensland, but are now grown in different varieties around the world, including in places like Hawaii.
Amid the surge in demand, many cane farms in and around Bundaberg have been converted to macadamia orchards.
Brussels-based Finasucre, controlled by the influential Lippens family, will add the Winfield macadamia aggregation to its ownership of Bundaberg Sugar and a significant agricultural land holding of almost 20,000 hectares.
It also grows cane sugar in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony.
According to its annual report for the year ended March 31, Finasucre recorded turnover of ???328 million ($535 million) through the sale of raw sugar, refined sugar and caramels and net assets of ???590 million.
The acquisition of the Bundaberg macadamia orchards is part of efforts by Finasucre to diversify its activities away from sugar, where its financial results have been hit by poor sugar prices. In Australia, it also grows broccolini, raspberries, blueberries and sweet potatoes.
According to its annual report, its Australian macadamia nut business enjoyed a good harvest and contributed $4.4 million to the company’s turnover.
“The profitability of this activity is significant and we will continuewith its development by investing in existing orchards,” the company said.
The family’s history traces back to Count Maurice Lippens, a Belgian businessman, politician, colonial civil servant and lawyer who served as governor-general of the Belgian Congo in the early 1920s and later had business interests with Congolese companies producing cane sugar.
Finasucre’s chairman is Count Paul Lippens and its managing director, Olivier Lippens. Another six members of the Lippens family sit on the company board.
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