The name behind 90 per cent of Australia's annual walnut crop, Webster Limited, has paid about $10 million for the cropping rights to 422 hectares of walnut orchards, some of which it actually already owns.
Webster also manages the Leeton and Tabbita walnut crops in the NSW Murrumbidgee it is buying from AGW Managed Investment Schemes, whose investors have owned the crop yields rights for a defined period.
A Webster subsidiary, AWG Funds Management, was responsible for running the AWG investment, but will be wound up following the purchase.
The deal will achieve ongoing management savings in the order of $700,000 a year according to Webster chief executive officer, Maurice Felizzi.
He said the acquisition allowed Webster to realise synergies in its walnut operations without the additional administration and cost burdens associated with dealing with a MIS.
The company, which is also planting a further 350ha of walnuts this year, is paying for the acquisition from its existing debt facilities.
It owns 1800ha of productive orchards, plus a further 600 immature plantings, but manages a total walnut area of almost 3000ha in southern Australia.
The walnut operation spans a complete vertical integration from nursery production to orchard management, harvesting, drying, processing and marketing.
Finished products of in-shell and walnut kernel are exported directly from the company's farm processing plant at Leeton to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The orchard portfolio is spread from Tasmania, where the company founded to NSW.
Webster is one of the largest irrigated farming operations in Australia with more than 20,000ha of irrigable land in NSW, primarily focused on cotton and corn, cereals and legume crops.
Most of its NSW estate was acquired with its purchase of the Tandou and Kooba farming aggregations four years ago.
The Tandou purchase also involved extensive grazing land in south western NSW, giving the company capacity to run 2000 head of cattle and 45,000 lambs annually.
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