10 October 2016
by Matthew Cranston

Chinese snap up the Earl of Stradbroke's Australian farmland

Chinese-backed company Harmony Beef and Cattle is buying the Earl of Stradbroke's grand rural property Mt Fyans in the Western District of Victoria for about $34 million.

It is the first purchase by Harmony Beef and Cattle – a company ultimately owned by the major Chinese group He Sheng – and reflects the growing Chinese investment in Australia's prime agricultural land.

​Located at Dundonnell, the Mt Fyans aggregation covers 5900 hectares of contiguous land, amassed over 25 years by the Earl otherwise known as Keith Rous.

The Earl, who is known to have challenged his cousin to a pistol duel over rights to the family property in East Anglia, in southern England, confirmed that a deal was in progress for Mt Fyans but declined to give details.

The huge property, just 2½ hours from Melbourne, includes a renowned Black Angus herd of some 2800 breeders and 2000 sheep for prime lamb production.

The property was offered for sale last year by Lord Rous whose grandfather George Rous, the third Earl of Stradbroke, was Governor of Victoria from 1921 to 1931.

The property is said to have attracted some foreign investor last year although there were some concerns about a deal progressing.

Aside from the huge landholdings – likely to be in the top five largest in Victoria – the property comprises an eight bedroom historic homestead, built in the mid-1880s to a design by renowned local architect Andrew Kerr.

The spine of the home is a 21-metre long hallway with ornate cornices and ceiling roses.

The property is also well watered with springs, dams and bores. A pumping system drives water through some 90 kilometres of poly pipe feeding into 190 troughs.

Little is known of the Harmony Beef and Cattle company, although its directors include Chinese Sun Yanlai, Wenfeng Wang and Yixiang Yuan and Agricultural Connections Australia director Stephen Meerwald. A British-born but Perth-based businessman Richard Pearce is also a director.

The company could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Part of Harmony Beef is also partly owned by a local based company called Tintinabulla whose director is former general manager of Western Australian-based live exporter Wellard, Anthony Fellows.

The rising interest from Chinese investors has seen some notable agricultural sales including retail and supermarket giant Dashang Group's $45 million purchase of former Babcock and Brown founder Phil Green's Glenrock Station near Scone in the Hunter Valley.