Millicent farmland buy up

ANOTHER major Millicent and district property has been purchased by food industry giant Thomas Foods International.

Settlement is expected in the near future on major Mount Burr grazing property Whites Heath, which has been held by the McDonald family for 81 years.

It is the third local farm to be purchased by Thomas Foods International within the past three years.

The first – measuring almost 972 hectares – was Glenross at Mount Burr which had been held by the Gordon family for over 50 years and was sold in 2014.

Earlier this year, Millicent’s Smith family sold Bradgate.

It had been owned by the family since 1962 and measured 275 hectares.

Whites Heath vendor Bill McDonald confirmed the sale with The South Eastern Times, but declined to state the acreage or selling price.

The local rumour mill has suggested the sale realised a price well into seven figures.

Mr McDonald said Whites Heath was located across the road from Glenross.

A significant portion of Whites Heath was sold by Mr McDonald around 12 to 14 years ago and the latest sale to Thomas Foods International would end his association with cattle grazing.

The media affairs of Thomas Foods International are handled by a public relations firm in Adelaide.

A spokesperson for this firm told The South Eastern Times that Thomas Foods International would not be commenting on, or confirming any land purchases.

Based in Murray Bridge, Thomas Foods International has an annual turnover of $1b and is the nation’s largest family-owned meat processing company.

In the past month the company has advertised for an assistant farm manager at at unspecified location in the region.

Premium land in the Millicent district has attracted other out of town buyers in recent years.

The Stuckey family property “Kandara South” at Furner was sold to prominent pastoralist Tom Brinkworth in 2015.

Locals are also paying record prices at auction for smaller parcels of farming land.

A Rendelsham block recently fetched the equivalent of $5000 per acre while a Hatherleigh parcel was sold for $7000 per acre.

Landmark Millicent manager Richard North said the strong demand for land in the Millicent district coincided with high prices for livestock.

“It is a good secure area with assured rainfall,” Mr North said

“Locals have been looking to expand their farming businesses and there is keen competition for quality land.”

Mr North is not surprised by the out of town interest in the Millicent area.

“They are buying into a good quality district”.

Millicent Agricultural Bureau past president and fourth-generation farmer Chris Bateman said investment in land is a safe option.

“Thomas Foods International has bought some very good land,” Mr Bateman said

“They are good farm managers and I understand they have spent a significant sum on capital improvements at their Mount Burr property in recent times.

Prices for beef, sheep and fine wool are at record levels and there is a lot of optimism.

“Low interest rates are helping.”

The eyes of the South East farming community will turn to Robe next month for the auction of Akeringa.

It has been in the ownership of the same family for 40 years and is expected to attract a premium price.

An auction of farming land at Glencoe West tomorrow will also create interest.