Almond plantations: Investors spend big

The Weekly Times - Peter Hemphill

Growing concern: Irrigation bays where trees will be planted are prepared on goFARM Australia’s property near Balranald.

CORPORATE investors are going nuts over almonds.

More than 15,000 hectares of almond trees have been planted in Victoria, NSW and South Australia during the past couple of years — or are about to be planted by next year.

The developments are collectively worth about $600 million.

New investors include US firm Hancock Agricultural Investments, goFARM Australia and Harvard University’s Rosella Farming business operation.

CBRE’s Danny Thomas said there had been a dramatic increase in greenfield irrigation developments in the Murrumbidgee and Murray River regions of southern NSW and Victoria, especially in almonds, but also for avocados, table grapes, citrus and olives.

Mr Thomas said one big almond farming development was Hancock Agricultural Investments’ almond orchards on both sides of the Murray River at Piangil.

He understood the company had planted 300ha of almond trees, with 800-1000ha more planned.

Another big investor is goFARM Australia, chaired by Robert Costa, of Geelong’s Costa fruit group.

goFARM managing director Liam Lenaghan said the company had 12,000ha of farmland in the Sunraysia area to be developed for permanent plantings, with almonds “a significant crop in the mix”.

Mr Lenaghan said this included 600ha at Boundary Bend and 800ha at a property south of Balranald.

A further 900ha is expected to be planted next year.

Mr Thomas said other new almond orchards included Rosella Farming’s 250ha on Wyadra Station at Hillston, with another 1000ha to be planted.

Rural Funds Management has 2414ha of almond orchards at Hillston and another 1282ha planted at Darlington Point in southern NSW.

Another 1218ha are expected to be planted at Darlington Point this year.

Australia’s second-largest almond producer, Select Harvests, planted 1008ha of trees last year and plans another 361ha this year.

It now has 7150ha of trees under management.

Almond Board of Australia chief executive Ross Skinner said the prospects for almonds was very strong.

“The demand is driven by the health benefits of including nuts in the diet,” Mr Skinner said.