Agribusiness buzz in brief

Agribusiness buzz in brief

News
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A quick look at what some of the movers and shakers in agribusiness have been up to

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Lion bidding dwindles

The long distance race for Lion's $1.2 billion dairy and drinks business is taking its toll, with Coca-Cola Amatil  pulling out before the finish line, and quite possibly leaving running mate Freedom Foods out of the action, too.

Freedom's dairy, snacks and cereals business was hoping to pick up Lion's significant white milk and yoghurt brands in a deal which would have seen CCA take the juice, flavoured milk and cheese assets in Lion's portfolio.

CCA told the Australian Securities Exchange a week ago it was not continuing its initial plan to take part in the auction.

It followed another recent withdrawal by Japanese brewer, Asahi, a rival to Lion's parent company Kirin.

The CCA-Freedom syndicate collapse comes just weeks before the deadline for the sale of Lion's brands such as Dairy Farmers, Pura, Berri and King Island is due to expire.

Lion announced its plan to divest the dairy and drinks division last October, but now observers are speculating about the sale being put on ice or, at least, extended for several more months.

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Wilmar to run Goodman Fielder

Asia's largest agribusiness group, Wilmar International, is to take full control of the big consumer foods business, Goodman Fielder, buying out its joint venture partner, First Pacific, for about $425 million.

The 50-50 partnership acquired the trans-Tasman baking, spreads and dairy products giant in a 2015 share market takeover for almost $1.4 billion.

Hong Kong-based First Pacific, which also owns half of Indonesia's largest food company, Indofood, will now sell its shares in the joint-venture company, to Singaporean Wilmar, plus its shareholder loans.

But it is still likely to report a loss of about $396m on the sale.

Wilmar, 25 per cent owned by US farm commodities giant, Archer Daniels Midland, already owns Australia's former CSR sugar business, including eight Queensland mills, and has other interests in sugar, edible oils, grain processing, biofuels and consumer foods in Asia.

Goodman Fielder began life as the Fielders flour mill at Tamworth in NSW, growing into a public company in the 1950s, merging with Gillespie Brothers, Davis Industries, Allied Mills and New Zealand's Goodman Group and Watties Foods in the 1970s and '80s.

Goodman Fielder, which markets Helga's and Wonder White bread, Meadow Lea margarine and Praise mayonnaise, posted a net profit of $38.7m last year on sales of $2.16b.

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Ag investor forum

Agribusiness Australia is  supporting the Agri Investor Australia forum on June 19 at the Grand Hyatt, Melbourne

As new markets open and current agricultural methods struggle to meet premium produce demand, the forum will look at how all facets of the industry are looking to investment in innovation.

The forum is offering participants the chance to connect with agriculture's "most influential agribusiness leaders, investors, producers, regulators, and advisors to discuss the challenges and factors driving the innovation to overcome them".

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Berries need labour

Berries Australia has welcomed the skilled visa program extension, but says governments need to go further to address the underlying farm labour shortage.

The change involves moving most agricultural occupations from the short-term list to the regional occupations list which makes visa holders eligible for a four-year visa, double the current term.

The $1.4 billion berry category is now the single largest fresh produce category in Australia and consumption is increasing across the country.

To continue to grow, the berry industry needed access to reliable workers said Berries Australia, executive director, Rachel Mackenzie.

"However, the government decision only covers skilled occupations and not unskilled labour such as fruit-picking - access to the skills we need from overseas means berry businesses can be more profitable and employ more locals," she said.

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Vegan fertiliser push

Gold Coast-based entrepreneur, Adam Fitzhenry, plans to tap into the global biological organic fertilisers market with an animal manure-free fertiliser pitched at the vegan sector.

“Veganism is growing across the world and people want to eat food that is produced without animal exploitation, which provides strong impetus for farmers and gardeners to use animal waste-free fertilisers such as Power Pellets,” Mr Fitzhenry said.

“Power Pellets have remarkable potential.”

The Australian innovation, registered as organic with the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia, had out-performed leading animal-waste based competitors by a considerable margin in clinical experiments.

Power Pellets are lucerne-based products boosted by powdered rock minerals, slow-release organic phosphorous and a patented enzyme that stimulates soil microorganisms.

The formulation was developed in the 1990s by a Snowy Mountains farming family after finding superphosphate was creating negative long-termconsequences for the soil on their property.

Nutrients are in a true slow-release form, becoming active upon microbial and environmental action, but are not water activated.

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Taking root in China

Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies has executed a third sale and installation agreement with China's Dagan Agricultural Automation for a state-of-the-art greenhouse project.

The $64,00 sale involves installing Roots' Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology in a greenhouse covering about half a hectare in Guizhou.

Roots' heating and cooling systems will be used to stabilise the root temperature of various vegetable crops while a portion of the greenhouse will be used as an untreated control area, allowing direct comparison with RZTO crop yield.

This installation forms part of Dagan's distribution agreement conditional on $26m in sales over a five-year period.

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