Van Dairy company has remained tight-lipped on speculation it is in the process of selling some of the farms at Circular Head.
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FOR SALE: Van Dairy owner Xiangfeng Lu. The company has not confirmed whether it's in the process of selling 12 Tasmanian farms. Picture: file

This is despite a Togari farmer confirming he had bid for some of the properties and had been outbid.

Speculation about whether the company is planning to sell off assets from Australia’s largest dairy company has snowballed since a leaked audit report showed VDL faced significant effluent management concerns.

However, when asked if it planned to sell off farms, or if it had received a bid from Melbourne-based investor group Prime Value Asset Management, VDL would not confirm or deny the claim.

“VDL is always looking at opportunities to create value through sales and acquisitions,” a spokesman said.

“The company is investing in infrastructure, current and new people, caring for animals, including local wildlife, and protecting the environment.”

Despite not confirming directly if it was looking to sell, farmer Stephen Fisher, director of Circular Head Farms, said he had approached the company with a bid.

It is understood the sale includes the 12 VDL farms outside the Woolnorth gate, which were put up for sale earlier this year and are now being finalised.

Mr Fisher is a director of Circular Head Farms, a community-based agricultural investment fund founded in 2014 with the aim of providing locals with a pathway into the dairy industry.

He confirmed that CHF had “certainly put in an offer” to buy the 12 farms, but had been outbid by Melbourne investment company Prime Value Asset Management.

He estimated they had made an offer somewhere between $63 million and $65 million.

“We’re talking serious money,” he said.

“It is positive at least that some of these farms are back in Australian hands.”

Comment was sought from Prime Value Asset Management but they did not return any calls.

Meanwhile, Van Dairy has appointed a national agriculture consultant to help it “build a business plan” and manage compliance.

Wolfie Wagner who has 30 years’ experience in Australian pasture-based dairy farm operations has been appointed by the company to “assist in addressing regulatory requirements and develop a business plan that directs operational reform and performance.”

In a statement, Mr Wagner said he acknowledged Van Dairy, formerly Moon Lake, faced some challenges.

“However I had the privilege this week of visiting several dairy farms belonging to the Van Dairy group and it was satisfying to not witness any direct breaches of environmental or animal welfare industry standards,” he said.

“The first steps in working with Van Dairy will be to gather sufficient information to create a working business plan that will provide a platform for operational reform for the business.”

Van Dairy, which owns and operates the Van Diemens Land group of farms has come under fire after the leaked audit report found significant breaches of the Effluent Management Code.

The Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority, the Environment Protection Agency and the Circular Head Council are all collaborating on an investigation into the effluent and animal welfare concerns.

The investigation has prompted Tasmanian Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson to call for federal government intervention, on whether the company has met its obligations under the Foreign Investment Review Board’s condition of sale.

The Van Dairy statement said the company was committed to running a responsible, world-class dairy business.

VDL is Australia’s largest and oldest dairy company.

Last month, 14 of our dairy farms in Maine, as well as dozens of dairy farms across northern New England, got an unexpected and disappointing notice from Danone of North America saying that they were discontinuing their contracts with our organic dairy farmers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere.

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