FOUR PROPERTIES south of Forbes and Murrumbidgee headliner Gundaline are up for sale on behalf of family and corporate vendors keen to test the market for versatile and well-developed irrigation country.
At 14,916 hectares, including 6000ha of irrigation, Gundaline is the largest.
Agent for the sale is CBRE regional agribusiness director Danny Thomas, who is running an expressions-of-interest (EOI) campaign which closes 7 July on behalf of Netherlands investment firm Optifarm.
“Optifarm has received an offer off-market, and that’s stimulated them to take it to the market and see what they can get for it,” Mr Thomas said, adding Gundaline was expected to fetch more than $90 million.
“It’s to do with the seismic shift in the value of groundwater, and they’re responding to a market signal.”
Gundaline is licensed to extract 18,000 megalitres of groundwater per year, with additional entitlement to 2329ML of supplementary water from the Murrumbidgee River.
Located 65 kilometres east of Hay at Carrathool, the property was sold by the Kahlbetzer family’s Twynam Group in 2014 for around $25M to investment fund Southern Agricultural Resources, which sold it to Optifarm in 2018 for a rumoured $75M.
A portion of Gundaline has already been planted to nut trees, and the property is one of the Riverina’s biggest cotton producers.
Scope for Forbes cotton
A number of properties south-west of Forbes are also growing cotton, and since soaking rains fell earlier this year, are enjoying an excellent winter-cropping season, and continued strong prices for sheep, lambs and cattle.
It has helped the region find a place as a cheaper alternative to mixed-farming country than can be found on the inner slopes of central and south-west NSW.
Adding to its appeal are irrigation entitlements from the Lachlan River’s storage, Wyangala Dam.
The dam’s capacity is set to increase 53 per cent when its wall is raised, with works due to start next year.
Forbes-based agent principal Gary Johnston of Johnston Rural Group has listed the 1218ha Kywong on behalf of long-time owners the Scott family.
Mr Johnston said inquiry was already coming from different farming backgrounds, and some potential purchasers had a livestock focus, while others were drawn to Kywong’s irrigation and cotton-production potential.
The property includes a 1000ML water entitlement from Jemalong, and has 374ha laser-levelled for irrigation.
In recent years, Kywong has irrigated up to 120ha of cotton yielding 12.3 bales/ha.
“Forbes is now being seen as a hotspot in relation to value for money and the government planned and approved increase in Wyangala Dam storage capacity is also adding value to land and water assets.”
Close to Kywong are two further CBRE listings, the 2788ha Bergen Park and the 1111ha Warili.
Bergen Park was sold by Angus and Kim Maslin to Blue Sky in 2017, and the investment is managed by Brisbane-based Argyle Capital Partners.
GRDC Northern Region Panel member and agronomist Dr Tony Hamilton recently sold Warili, also a Blue Sky title in Argyle’s management portfolio.
Under current ownership, Moree-based Customised Farm Management (CFM) has been managing Bergen Park and Warili, and both have successfully added cotton to their dryland and irrigation cropping options as supplemented by grazing.
Bergen Park has a 4610ML general-security water entitlement, 591ha laser-levelled for flood irrigation and 59ha of flood irrigation.
Warili has 1920ML of general-security water, and license to pump 1160ML of groundwater, and 233ha of laser-levelled country, plus 58ha of flood irrigation.
“CFM has done a really good irrigation development on both those places, and they did work also on Gundaline, so they are common across all three of those places,” Mr Thomas said.
He estimates Warili will sell for more than $7M, and Bergen Park more than $14M, with both properties piquing the interest of some of the region’s family farming operations looking to expand.
Temora agent Angus McLaren of Miller & James has the listing for the 2718ha West Plains on behalf of vendors Peter and Jayne Hammond and son Jack.
West Plains adjoins Bergen Park, and its first-stage EOI campaign closes 29 July.
“Land prices are going up in the better country, and pushing family and corporate interest westward to make acquisitions where scale can be achieved,” Mr McLaren said.
West Plains has a 1160ML entitlement from the Jemalong scheme, and 455ha of lasered border-check irrigation development, plus 467ha supplied with channels and suitable for irrigation development.
Available with the sale of the property are this year’s winter crops: 308ha of wheat; 333ha of barley, and 83ha of canola.
While cotton has not been grown on West Plains, corn, sorghum and lucerne have been grown as summer crops.
West Plains is currently running 2345 ewes, 1333 lambs and 44 rams.
In an average season, West Plains comfortably runs nine dry-sheep equivalents per hectare, and crops 800ha.
Bergen Park, Kywong, Warili and West Plains all have good to excellent improvements, and an annual average rainfall of around 480-500 millimetres evenly distributed across the year.
EOI on Bergen Park and Warili, together or separately, close 23 July.