Dow Jones | 11 March 2010
By Chuin-Wei Yap
BEIJING (Dow Jones)–China's Beidahuang Land Cultivation Group, one of the country's leading vehicles for the purchase of foreign agricultural properties, will buy 200,000 hectares of farmland overseas this year, with Latin America and South East Asia as the target areas, Chairman Sui Fengfu said Friday.
The move is a sign that Chinese agribusinesses, which haven't been as aggressive as metal and mining companies in offshore purchases, are responding to the government's call to move faster on overseas expansion at a time when Beijing is trying to ensure sufficiency in agricultural product supply.
The group is the corporate vehicle for China's northeastern Heilongjiang provincial government land reclamation agency. It is one of China's largest farming businesses and also owns soyoil manufacturer Jiusan Oil & Fat Co.
"We're planning 3 million mu of projects this year," Sui told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, China's legislature. The mu is a Chinese measurement equal to about 0.0667 hectares.
Beidahuang is planning to purchase agricultural tracts such as edible oil plantations and grain acreage in a wide range of overseas locations, including Brazil, Argentina and the Philippines, Sui said.
In December, the agriculture minister called on agricultural companies to pursue overseas expansion as China faces limited natural resources at home.
"The time is ripe for the country's agricultural companies to embark on a 'go outward strategy'," Han Changfu said, calling it a ripe moment in globalization.
However, it isn't the first time Beidahuang has embarked on a strategy to buy farmland.
Early last year, the company said it closed deals to acquire thousands of hectares in Argentina and Cuba to produce rice, soybeans, wheat, rapeseed and black beans in exchange for Chinese investment in logistics and irrigation.
While other large Chinese agribusinesses have mostly kept their focus domestic, regional rivals have raced to make inroads overseas to meet rising food demand.
In a deal completed in December, Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd. (WLMIY), the world's largest palm oil trader, beat China's Bright Food Group Co. to buy CSR Ltd.'s (CSR) sugar unit, Australia's biggest refiner, for A$1.75 billion ($1.5 billion).
Singapore-based Noble Group Ltd. (N21.SG), agribusiness giant Bunge Ltd. (BG) and U.S.-based Cargill Inc. also completed major global deals last year for farm-related commodities.
-By Chuin-Wei Yap, Dow Jones Newswires; 8610 8400 7704; [email protected]