International diversified resource company Astra Resources PLC (FWB Code: 9AR) through its wholly owned subsidiary Astra Mining Pty Ltd have signed a Joint Venture to be headed by Australian icon Troy Dann as the first step in its agricultural commodities strategy.
The Joint Venture has resulted in the creation of Astra Agricultural Resources Pty Ltd (AAR), of which Astra retains 51 per cent ownership. The Joint Venture plays a key role in launching Astra’s commodity business.
In this major move by Astra, the company has recognised that further diversification of its activities to include the provision of an agricultural resources commodities division into a diversified resources company with opportunities in steel and coal conversion technologies, mining, property development in industrializing areas, commodities trading and green technologies, can only strengthen the development of the company.
Astra sees this development in its group activities as a strength and source of further diversification in its business activities.
Astra will provide funding to AAR from its forthcoming Prospectus, and assist in the facilitation of a bond facility to AAR to further supplement the funding requirements of the joint venture company for its working capital requirements.
Astra CEO Dr Jaydeep Biswas says Astra’s involvement in the project will be an important commodity play and help bring to life the company’s food bowl business aspirations.
“A new report by the United Nations says the growing world population and rising middle class will drive up demand for food by 70 per cent by 2050, with agricultural exports potentially rising by 140 per cent over the same period,” Dr Biswas says.
“As the living conditions of developing countries continue to improve there will be an increased demand for protein and calorie-rich foods, which translates into a need for more beef, lamb, pork, poultry meats and more dairy products.
“Feeding these populations with protein rich food is also a prerequisite for continued growth in minerals and steel, with the increase in major global traders moving into agricultural commodities reflecting this notion.
“The Federal Government wants Australia to become a global food production powerhouse, and Astra plan to capitalise on this desire by entering into agriculture and food which will further diversify our portfolio and create a growth business for when demand for hard commodities decreases as developing economies enter a more mature phase.
“Hard commodities go through cycles, and while Astra has diversified its mining portfolio to the extent that any global downturn in their prices would have minimal impact on the company, pushing ahead with commodities in agriculture will further insulate Astra against market fluctuations in the long term. It is a further hedge that the company is building into its production activities.”
Troy Dann, appointed as AAR’s Managing Director, is a third generation award winning cattlemen from the Northern Territory and is very passionate about what outback Australia has to offer the world in the future.
“The Northern Territory is on the door step to Asia with arguably the cleanest pastures in the world covering over 330,000,000 acres or approximately 140,000,000 hectares of outstanding and highly productive land given the opportunity for further development from the exceptional water systems of Northern Australia,” Mr Dann says.
“We are privy to some of the world’s best growing and grazing land, with Northern Australia often referred to as the region’s food bowl due to the rainfall, low population density, logistics and infrastructure, such as port access to Asia via the North.
“AAR has vast potential with projected earnings suggesting net profit could surpass $12 million by 2013/2014, increasing substantially in the years to follow.”
Astra intend to capitalise on Australia’s comparative advantage in agriculture, something that cannot be replicated in Asia due to population growth.
Astra Managing Director Silvana De Cianni says Australia has long been slated as the food bowl for the expanding Asian region due to its proximity, however insufficient investment means the sector has yet to fully realise its potential.
“China, India, East Asia and the Middle East need additional agricultural imports to support population growth, namely the expanding middle class, which in turn increases demand for the resources required for industrialization, such as power and steel,” Ms De Cianni says.
“Australia’s proximity to Asian markets means we are in a prime position to take advantage of this untapped opportunity by supplying these regions with the high quality protein they require.
Dr Biswas says the Australian cattle industry is expected to expand exponentially, with data collected by Meat and Livestock Australia indicating beef and veal production for 2012 will reach a record 2.197 million tonnes cwt, up 2.2 per cent, and global demand is expected to be sustained, if not strengthened.
“This is a positive under any financial scenario, and the commodity arm of Astra will participate in developing this region as a food bowl for Asia.”
“Global beef prices are also tracking at historically high levels, with total beef exports expected to increase, driven by expansion into Russia, the Middle East and most southern Asian markets,” Dr Biswas says.
Astra Resources’ global portfolio includes gold interests in Southeast Asia, coal mine in Africa, iron ore in India, Norway and the Philippines, carbon efficient and commodity businesses, the production of the high-strength T-Steel technology in Hungary, clean coal technology and the provision of mining services housing in Rockhampton, Queensland.
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