Vicstock venture pulls back

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Photo: Bill Hatto/The West Australian.
West Australian | 7 May 2015

Vicstock venture pulls back

by Brad Thompson
  
Vicstock Grain and its Chinese backers dramatically scale back their cropping operations in the Wheatbelt. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian.

Vicstock Grain and its Chinese backers have dramatically scaled back their cropping operations in the Wheatbelt three years after a $70 million spending spree on farmland.

Their operations will cover less than 35,000ha this season — down from 85,000ha in 2014-15 — but the key players in the venture deny cracks have appeared in their business model.

Vicstock and Heilongjiang Feng Agricultural said yesterday that it had been a mutual decision to move away from leasing vast tracts of the Wheatbelt.

They will focus on getting the best out of farms owned by HFA, the Australian business arm of China’s Beidahuang Group.

HFA trading manager Jeremy Li said the firm maintained a close working relationship with Geelong-based Vicstock, which manages farms on its behalf.

Mr Li said there were no issues of concern with Vicstock or entities involved in the trading of grain produced from HFA investments. There has been growing speculation about Vicstock amid the reduced cropping program and delays in completing its grain terminal at Albany.

Vicstock chief executive Harold Sim said dry commissioning of the Albany terminal had been completed and work continued on modifying the berth’s woodchip loader. He expects grain to be delivered to the facility by the end of this month in the next step towards a trial shipment later this year.

HFA is not part of the Albany project but Mr Li said it was open to possibly using the terminal for grain shipments.

Vicstock director Will Crozier, who helped pull together the farm purchases and secure the Albany port site in 2012, will step down from the board at the end of next month as he continues to battle cancer.
Original source: West Australian
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