THE purchase of 40,000ha at Telopea Downs, in far western Victoria is close to the final piece of the land purchasing puzzle for Hassad Australia, who’s parent company Hassad Foods is owned by the Qatar Government.
After officially confirming the Telopea Downs purchase last week, Hassad Australia chief executive Tom McKeon said the company was well advanced in its business plan.
He said Hassad Australia now owned 250,000ha of farmland over Queensland, NSW, Victoria and WA.
“We’re getting towards the end of our business plan now in terms of purchasing land.”
Mr McKeon said since establishing itself in Australia three years ago, the company had been particularly selective about where it bought land.
“The properties are spread over a wide geographic area, so we limit our exposure to production risk – we don’t want to be too exposed in any one area for climate, disease and other risk reasons.”
With this in mind, the company now has a property at Cunnamulla in south-western Queensland, properties at Warren and Trangie in central western NSW, Canowindra on the southern slopes in NSW, Moyston and Strathdownie in Victoria’s Western District, with the new Telopea Downs purchase in Victoria’s Wimmera, and Bindi Bindi, near Moora, Jerramungup and Esperance in Western Australia.
“The focus will be on grain production and livestock, in particular sheep, we wanted to put together relatively large properties in each area to bolt together an aggregation large enough to achieve economies of scale.”
Hassad Australia is predominately east coast focused, with just 27,000ha in WA, along with one part of the Telopea Downs aggregation falls just across the border into SA.
There was a deliberate decision making process in terms of which areas the company selected.
“The plan is based on both a cost / benefit analysis and the reliability of the area,” Mr McKeon.
“The risk profile is something we look at closely.
Even with the purchase of Telopea Downs, traditionally regarded as marginal country by many Wimmera farmers, Mr McKeon said research had found the area was actually very reliable.
“It might not be a high rainfall area, but it does have a reliable productivity which is attractive to Hassad Australia.”
He also said the opportunity to value-add the investment, in the case of Telopea Downs by clay-spreading, which has become a popular practice in the area, improving productivity considerably, was also a factor.
“We’ve been very strategic about where we have invested, we’ve chosen places that have the potential to be aggregated and improved.”
Finally, Mr McKeon said a decision was made regarding how potential purchases would strategically fit in with the nearby properties.
“In Victoria, for example, we have two properties that can get pretty wet, so Telopea is a good offset, which is a lot drier and warmer.
We will be looking at ways the farms can complement each other.”
He said the company would focus on grains, primarily hard wheat production and livestock, in particular meat breed sheep.
Most of the east coast properties Cunnamulla in QLD, Warren, Trangie and Canowindra in NSW, Moyston and Strathdownie in VIC, will be predominantly livestock, while the cropping will be done at the Central West NSW properties and in WA.
The Strathdownie property, ‘Kaladbro’, also includes a feedlot.
“Cattle will complement the sheep in some areas, but sheep are certainly the main focus.”
“It’s the same with the cropping, we will be growing other rotational crops, but hard wheat is the focus.”
The split across the entire business will roughly be a third cropping and two-thirds livestock,.
Mr McKeon did not comment on how much grain the company would produce, but based on local yields in the areas the company is cropping it is expected it would come in between 170,000 and 180,000 tonnes in an average year if wheat was the major crop.