A German fund that has helped European investors acquire $111 million of New Zealand farm land, mainly for dairying, says there is no sign of their interest abating given the bullish outlook for agriculture and food production.
Funds advised by Aquila Capital Green Assets, part of Germany’s Aquila Group, have acquired interests in 3983 hectares of farms in the past 12 months, according to approvals granted by the Overseas Investment Office.
The Aquila-linked funds have been buying farms steadily since December, taking the total to 11.
That starts putting them close to the same league as potential buyers of the 16 former Crafar farms, which cover almost 8000 hectares and have resulted in an outpouring of angst over whether it is in the national interest to cede ownership of rural land to foreigners.
"I am bullish about the outlook and we are experiencing enormous demand for investment products related to agriculture and food," said Detlef Schon, chief executive of Aquila Capital Green Assets.
Increasing wealth in developing economies was "turbo-charging" demand, led by China, Brazil, India and Russia, Schon said.
He does not have a target for how many farms could be bought in New Zealand.
Rules for foreign ownership of New Zealand land have been tightened amid public unease at the process. One of the changes was meant to prevent foreigners building up large portfolios of land over time and below the radar. Schon denies that is Aquila’s strategy.
"Absolutely not," he says.
"We are investment advisers – we raise funds from German mums and dads."
They are also assessing investments in Romania, Canada, Uruguay and Chile.
All of the farm sales were arranged through Feilding-based farm syndication and management group AgInvest’s MyFarm business, which specialises in tracking down farms with potential for improvement, which can be sold to syndicates typically for five to seven years.