The Chinese owners of Australia's largest dairy operation have sold off a dozen farms after a tumultuous few years.
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The Chinese owners of Van Dairy have offloaded 12 farms to a Melbourne-based asset manager.(ABC Rural: Lachlan Bennett)

Key points:
Van Dairy offloads a dozen farms in North-West Tasmania
The business has been in the spotlight over environmental concerns
The Chinese owners say the sale fulfils the promise for Australian ownership

The $62.5 million deal will mean 5,000 cows and 2,200 hectares of prime dairy country in Tasmania’s far north-west is transferred to Melbourne-based asset manager Prime Value.

The sale marks a partial return to Australian ownership for the historic property, which was owned by a New Zealand council prior to its acquisition by Chinese businessman Xianfeng Lu in 2016.

Mr Lu said the sale of the 12 farms had “attracted many investors from all over the world”.

“This shows that farming in North West Tasmania is very popular,” he said.

“It is becoming the dairy industry centre of Australia.”

Van Dairy has faced numerous problems in recent years, from a mass resignation of its board in 2018 to serious concerns about effluent management uncovered earlier this year.

Mr Lu said the sale “delivers on our promise for Australian companies to own 10 per cent of the land”.

‘Happy’ farms were sold

The sale of the farms to an Australian company was welcomed by Circular Head mayor Daryl Quilliam, who was “sure that people in the community will be quite happy about that”.

Cr Quilliam said Van Dairy was an “extremely significant” part of his district and the Tasmanian dairy industry.

“They are the biggest single owner of dairy cows in Australia,” he said.

Cr Quilliam was confident “90 per cent, if not more” of the employees from the sold farms would keep their jobs.

He also hoped the sale would provide the funds needed to ensure problems regarding effluent management were properly addressed.

“If there are any issues with lack of funding, for the sale of these farms, that should counteract that,” he said.

“So I look forward to better times ahead.”

Locally owned agriculture investment fund Circular Head Farms had also tried to buy the Van Dairy properties but was outbid by Prime Value.

CHF chairman Paul Lambert said at least the farms were “back in Australian hands”.

“But they’ve got to spend some money out there,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ll go alright. The people that run it (Prime Value) are quite experienced in asset management and have a bit of experience in dairy.

Anik Dairy, owned by dairy major Lactalis Group, has named SubhashisBasu as its new chief executive officer.

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