Oberon spared worst of Ceres Ag's voluntary administration

JOBS have been lost in Oberon due to the Ceres Agricultural Company going into voluntary administration, according to its administrators, but others will not be affected.

Ceres, which operated one of Australia's largest integrated cattle finishing and cropping enterprises before voluntary administrator Grant Thornton was appointed on March 28, operated from leased properties in Oberon, Moree and Warialda.

The two leased properties in Oberon were Mayfield and Ballyroe.

A Grant Thornton spokesperson said Mayfield as a farming operation "is a landholding held in a separate entity".

"It currently has separate farming operations that are not part of the Ceres voluntary administration," the spokesperson said.

"Ceres Ag did lease the Mayfield and Ballyroe properties in the Southern Operations for cattle farming purposes.

"With respect to the employees of Ceres Ag that were based at Mayfield and Ballyroe, some of those employees have continued with separate entities involved with related party landholdings.

"Unfortunately, some of the employees were terminated on appointment as the Ceres Ag operations ceased to trade and could not financially support their employment."

In an internal memo sent to all staff from Ceres owner Garrick Hawkins in late March, staff were told the current business was unsustainable and Ceres would be closed.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have taken this action but there was no practical choice given the performance of Ceres," Mr Hawkins wrote.

"Over its life my family has invested many tens of millions of dollars into the business, including directly and indirectly approximately $20 million over the past 18 months. Clearly this is unsustainable.

"I will not go into details as to why the results were so disappointing but suffice it to say that the 100 year drought we have experienced over recent times has not helped."

In regards to trade creditors, the Grant Thornton spokesperson said the "payment of any amounts they are owed will depend on what the administrators can recover from the asset base of Ceres Ag, which is predominantly plant and equipment, or potentially the proposal and acceptance of a deed of company arrangement".

"We will be seeking interested parties in proposing a deed to take on certain assets that may be available from the administration," they said.