Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Fancy world's biggest farm?

Published 21/06/2011 | 05:00

Close to one million acres of land in Argentina has come on the market in what is believed to be the biggest single freehold farm sale in the world.

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The Estancia Punta del Agua is a 989,000ac property in the San Juan province in the northwest of the country and it is being sold through London-based estate agents Savills and joint agents Gateway to South America in Buenos Aires.

Visualising such a vast estate is difficult, but to put it in context, the estancia is about the size of Co Cork or the total of all Coillte land in Ireland.

As for the price? A bargain at €7.10/ac ($10/ac), which equates to ¤7m in total.

The property is being sold on behalf of a family-owned company, which has owned the land since the 1980s and now wishes to concentrate on other projects.

Ken Jones, head of international farmland sales at Savills, said that given the current interest in farmland from international investors, he expected the Estancia to appeal to a number of potential buyers.

Estancia Punta del Agua is situated in a semi-arid region, characterised by mountain ranges and fertile valleys and the soils on the property vary from naturally fertile silt soils in the north and centre to more sandy soils in the south.

Soil reports carried out throughout the vast estate show areas of silt soils, and the potential to tap into one of the largest aquifers in Argentina. It is crossed by three major rivers in the Andean Valle del Rio Bermejo.

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"Obviously in a property of this size, you will have rock but there are large pockets of silt and silt/clay soils that could be used for productive agriculture," said Savills' Steven Hall. "But when I say pockets, I mean areas of 10,000-20,000ac."

The agents admit the farm is not at a productive level currently and would require a buyer with both money and time to invest in making the biggest farm in the world a profitable venture.

"The Estancia needs an investor who understands agriculture and has the capital to invest after the purchase in a scheme of works to bring the land into line with 21st-century farming techniques," said Mr Jones.

However, the farm has been a productive estate in the past, according to joint agent Geoffrey McRae of Gateway to South America, and would have supported about 400 people at its peak in the 1950s.

"The Estancia was a productive farming estate until the 1950s, when lack of infrastructure meant that the province of San Juan became less competitive in comparison to the more strategically located provinces such as Mendoza and La Pampa," he said.

In recent years, a strategic alliance between Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil has resulted in significant investment in infrastructure, including a road network connecting major ports on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Estancia now lies on National Route 150.

"Part of this network of road runs the full width of the estancia, meaning produce can now be transported from the land with ease," said Mr McRae.

"Investment in the 132kv grid network means that the Estancia will also benefit from a modern, reliable electricity supply."

Mr Hall added: "This property needs someone who is at home with a certain amount of risk but who can take it by the scruff of the neck and is willing to get on with it.

"It will most likely be a crop-based enterprise, which the buyer would build up one area at a time, increasing nutrient levels as they go on."

The vast estate was a major talking point at last week's Cereals tillage event in England, according to the estate agents.

"It's early days, but we have had some nibbles already and we are confident of selling the property," said Mr Hall.

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