Farmers flock to list with corporate player

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Farmers have rushed to offer their properties for sale to corporate agriculture venture JPT Capital, which last month announced it wanted to buy up to 80,000 hectares of WA cropping land.

The company is seeking to raise up to $80 million from investors for an ‘agrifund’ and has already bought its first property, 3000ha of arable land north of Dalwallinu.

Corporate Agriculture Australia (CAA) has been appointed as farmland manager for the company, and its managing director Gordon Verrall said that since news broke of JPT Capital’s interest in farmland, calls from farmers had been incessant.

By last week more than 25 WA farmers had contacted CAA to see if their properties were suitable –— an indication, Mr Verrall said, of the financial situation faced by many of the State’s growers.

“I’ve had a significant number of people ring — far more than I thought, in far more areas and across more demographics,” he said. “It shows there’s probably an underlying sentiment of concern out there.”

Calls came from across WA including Lake Grace, Mt Barker, Katanning and Mukinbudin, but by far the most calls were from the Great Southern.

“Given the amount of calls from those areas considered safer, perhaps it proves what appears to be an area performing well isn’t because these guys seem to be under pressure. The bulk of people who rang didn’t even have their property listed.”

It flies in the face of what Mr Verrall said was an anti-corporate feeling portrayed through the media.

“We haven’t found any anti-corporate sentiment,” he said. “In fact, we urge people to consider corporates as a source of capital and an avenue for many to continue farming.”

Mr Verrall said the same company, backed by a group of private investors separate to the agrifund, had purchased and cropped seven properties in the northern Wheatbelt last season.

“Last year was the first crop and we came off with what we hope is our worst performance of the decade,” Mr Verrall said. “But we’ve now got good subsoil moisture and if we still have a bit of moisture then we’ll start (seeding) on April 25.

“Privately, we’re confident we can get other investors before harvest and get more buyers for what is likely to be a flat spring (property) market.”

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