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NSW Ballykeane orchards sold to Megafruits Australia

The long-held Ballykeane apple and pear orchards, near Orange in central-west NSW, have sold to a newly-registered Megafruits Australia business for about $10 million, according to a report in the Financial Review this week.

The sale ends more than 45 years of ownership by the Leone family and follows the retirement in 2019 of Paul Leone , who ran the family’s separate JW Kirkwood wholesale business at Sydney Markets for decades, and the death of Paul’s brother Joe, who ran the orchard business, in March last year.

The central-west orchards were listed by Elders in 2017 (see video below), and relisted late last year by Sydney Country Living and Colliers International.

The orchards sale did not include the wholesale arm of the JW Kirkwood business, nor the Ticehurst stonefruit and cherry orchard in  Campania, Tasmania, orchard which was sold to Chinese interests in 2016 and now forms part of the Coal Valley Orchard business.

The Financial Review reports the purchaser as ‘local orchardist Megafruits Australia, which is expanding its existing operations of apple and cherry orchards’.

Little is known of Megafruits Australia, which was registered three months ago, but interests connected with it are understood to have purchased and be running two cherry orchards in the Orange and Mudgee area. APAL understands existing staff have been kept on, there are no plans to remove apple trees, but existing vacant land may be planted to cherries.

The Financial Review report states:

Across the four stand-alone orchards – Ballykeane, St Albans, Nashdale and Merlewood – about 116 hectares are planted to apple and pear varieties of various ages. The majority of the trees are under hail netting.

Brian McMillan, from Sydney Country Living and Angus Macleod of Colliers International, listed the aggregation last year (see link below).

“We fielded a significant number of inquiries, many of whom were looking for a lifestyle move to the country, including investment and business opportunities,” Mr McMillan said.

Ballykeane aggregation is part of the Leone family’s JW Kirkwood fruit business, which was established in 1971. It includes a wholesale marketing arm based out of the Sydney markets.

The majority of trees on the 116ha of Ballykeane orchards are under hail netting. Image: The Land.

Included in the Ballykeane sale is a purpose-built packing shed that houses grading facilities, packing lines, cool rooms, controlled atmosphere rooms, an office and amenities. There are residences on all individual holdings.

Historically the aggregation has produced between 4500 and 5500 bins a year, with an average bin weighing 500 kilograms. The lower 2020 harvest of 3335 bins was due to the drought.

At the time of the 2017 listing, the Rural Press NSW rural weekly The Land outlined the establishment and accumulation of the properties by the Leone family, beginning with the arrival of Salvatore and Giovanna Leone in Australia in 1956 from Sicily, Italy, and their move to Orange in 1974.

The purchase of “Ballykeane” from G and M Edwards that year was their first foray into their now expansive family-owned and run apple business, reported The Land. In 1986 they purchased Nashdale Orchard from Canberra Fruit and Vegetables. Later, in 2006, they purchased St Albans Orchard from Apple Country Orange.

Today (as reported in September 2017), the Leone’s four Central West orchards form part of the JW Kirkwood business which includes a wholesale marketing arm based out of the Sydney markets.

The business is now owned and operated by Salvatore and Giovanna’s sons, Paul and Joe Leone. Paul Leone heads up the Sydney operations while Joe Leone oversees the orchard operations out at Orange.

 

Read more

New hands for Ballykeane orchards (Jan 2021)

Orange apple orchards hit the market (Sep 2020)

An opportunity ripe for the picking (The Land, Apr 2017)

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