Clarence blueberry enterprise seeks international buyers

New direction for blueberry entrepreneur

Horticulture
Harjap Singh Dosanjh at Golden Eagle's Clarenza property near Grafton. The partnership is marketing a walk-in deal to international buyers.

Harjap Singh Dosanjh at Golden Eagle's Clarenza property near Grafton. The partnership is marketing a walk-in deal to international buyers.

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The Clarence Valley's largest blueberry producer is seeking international buyers to take the venture forward

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The largest blueberry enterprise in the Clarence Valley is being offered to international investors as a walk-in deal.

The company’s founder, Harjap Singh Dosanjh, says he and his financial support, Luigi Aquilini of Vancouver Canada, are confident that now is the right time to sell, given the boost in rural land prices over the past four years, during which time Golden Eagle established as its own recognised brand.

The partnership bought the old abattoir at Grafton as a packing shed, and recently installed a robotic sorting and packing machine.

Golden Eagle farms 120ha harvesting four varieties all from its Clarenza property, which has its own dam and irrigation capable of covering 72ha. 

Golden Eagle also bought 1700ha on the Old Glen Innes Road, and have cleared and prepared 120ha of former Spotted Gum timber country ready-to-plant. 

There is water access from the Orara River.

Blueberry bushes at the Clarenza farm are robust and yield well – 3000 plants per hectare produced 4.5kg each in their second season –  with four varieties including some of the best flavours developed by industry founder Ridley Bell.

Mr Singh, 39, who was bred on a Woolgoolga banana farm by Punjabi parents, and who started on his own with an acre of blueberries, says he personally is frustrated with the lack of export opportunity right now and has eyes on a future in the Brisbane Valley where there is jet plane access to Asia through Wellcamp.

“I think this industry moving forward needs to focus on diversity and be less dependent on blueberries,” he admitted, nodding towards rapidly expanding enterprises like avocados and macadamia nuts.

As for the  Golden Eagle’s large developed landholding on sandy soil west of Grafton, Mr Singh said much more than blueberries could be grown there, including raspberries and blackberries which are taking lessons learned from blueberries into production. 

There would also be opportunity with lychees and citrus, he said.

Some blueberries at Golden Eagle's Clarenza farm supply a long harvest window.

Some blueberries at Golden Eagle's Clarenza farm supply a long harvest window.

Mr Singh pointed out that in the current climate, the North Coast is never in drought for long. The Clarenza farm received more than 100mm in December at the same time the Orara flooded from rain on the Dorrigo.

There is some talk within the industry that an oversupply of product is having an impact on punnet price, which is true during the peak spring pick when discounted berries fall below the price required to harvest them by hand.

However the best fruit still sells for a premium, even when it is blemished by hail, as the Mountain Blue group discovered last year.

Export opportunities are the clear way forward say industry experts, with fruit fly contamination issues already addressed.

Expressions of interest through Colliers International close February 15. Visit www.colliers.com.au/goldeneagle

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