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Blueberries help property market boom

RURAL MARKET: Elders sale agent Terry Deefholts, Norman Arkan and rural sales agent Angus McDonald.
RURAL MARKET: Elders sale agent Terry Deefholts, Norman Arkan and rural sales agent Angus McDonald. Caitlan Charles

EXPANSION of the blueberry industry and strong cattle prices has increased the value of rural land in parts of the Clarence Valley.

Elders Real Estate sales professional Terry Deefholts said the local market had seen more interest from farmers capitalising on soil and weather conditions.

One property in particular at Lanitza, which sold last August, was a 2000 acre property purchased by a blueberry farmer.

"There would have been 30 bids in the room and mostly, the vast majority of them were blueberry growers from Woolgoolga," Mr Deefholts said.

"We ended up at $780,000 for that place, which still per acre is cheap as."

Mr Deefholts said there are more blueberry farmers moving north of Woolgoolga because of a new blueberry cooperative opening in South Grafton, giving them easier access to properties in the Clarence Valley.

"I think it comes down to the strains they've developed that are not only tolerant of frost but actually benefit from a frost," he said.

"Here is an actual working crop for Grafton that hasn't happened until now."

Mr Deefholts said the competition in the market right now, in both rural and residential, was a positive for Grafton.

"It strengthens the rural real estate base," Mr Deefholts said.

"Often rural gets left behind and is a slower market, but we've had things sitting there for three years sell better than they would have."

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Mr Deefholts has been working with Norman Arkan who scouts properties in the Grafton area for blueberry farmers.

"I've been around in this area for 50 years around Grafton and Coffs and I know practically all the community in Woolgoolga," Mr Arkan said.

"They are looking for land and they are coming up this way.... the land is a little bit cheaper up this way."

New industries moving into the Grafton area are a positive step according to Mr Arkan.

"Grafton was a city before Coffs but hasn't moved in the last 20 or 30 years," he said. "Now the berries are coming up this way and the Indians are coming up this way, it's starting to move."

Elders rural sales professional Angus McDonald said this could indicate a shift in Grafton's primary industries.

Sandy soil areas are less productive for cattle according to Mr McDonald, which means blueberry farmers will be able to capitalise on that land.

"The cattle market and the blueberry market have been driving the rural real estate market at the moment because both are expanding," Mr McDonald said. "The blueberry growers are expanding, cattle prices are up.

"We had one example of a cattle farmer who sold his property to blueberry growers. He had it as a cattle farm and has bought another property in the Valley for $2million."

Mr McDonald said he believes the influx of blueberry farms in the Clarence Valley was beneficial to a lot of industries.

"People getting money for their blocks of land that have been almost worthless over the years... it's added value to areas," he said.

While blueberry farmers will pay a premium for land, Mr Deefholts said people needed to be mindful of property value.

"People are getting over ambitious," he said. "It's still evidence based. We will go out to someone's place and look at recent sales of comparable properties. It won't be 50% more than last year, but it will be 5%."

Topics:  blueberries rural property



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