Dairy slump hits Lancorp farm plans hard

(File)
(File)

The state-run farmer Landcorp appears to be giving up on plans to create the world's biggest dairy farm, after posting a $20 million loss as the dairy slump bites.

And critics are comparing it to bankrupt coal miner Solid Energy.

Landcorp had big plans at Wairakei Estate; it wanted to create the biggest dairy unit in the world. But that's all on hold after the dairy plunge.

State-owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay says there are tough times ahead.

"It's not clear the business will be profitable this year or over the next few years."

The company's been hit hard by the dairy slump. In 2014 it posted an after-tax profit of almost $55 million, and today, it posted a $20 million profit.

That's down 137 percent in just one year, and Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove is comparing it to bankrupt coal miner Solid Energy.

"It's sort of Groundhog Day, so I hope it's not Solid Energy round two - but it could be."

Landcorp signed up to the Wairakei Estate project in 2004, vowing to convert 14,000ha of forest to 39 dairy farms, with 42,000 cows.

The project is one-third complete, but that plan appears to be abandoned.

Landcorp CEO Steven Carden says they won't pull out of the contract, but is now looking at what else to do with the land.

"We're looking at bull beef; we've just got our first sheep milking farm there; we're looking at dairy support, potentially cropping or some forestry - so we're looking at a wide range of options at the moment."

Landcorp owns a total of 140 farms and the Government says it may have to sell some of them to pay debt.

But its problems at the moment are nothing like Solid Energy. Although the worst could be yet to come for Landcorp, today's result only begins to capture the recent dairy plunge.

And that is why the Government is nervy and raising the prospect of selling farms.

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