Tassal Group Limited has pressed pause on its ambitious prawn expansion plans.
Tassal Group Limited has pressed pause on its ambitious prawn expansion plans.

Tassal to sell 6000ha of land as prawn sales grow by 786%

A giant prawn farming company will sell off about 6000 hectares of surplus land northwest of Mackay as it presses pause on growth plans.

Tassal Group Limited reported it would divest parts of Exmoor Station not suitable to its strategic goal of producing 20,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns annually by 2030.

In a presentation to shareholders, the company stated it spent $7.5 million on optimising the land at Billy Creek to incorporate into its Proserpine operations which now covered 270 hectares of ponds.

And just months after Tassal signed a fresh prawn supply contract with Coles supermarkets, it reported it would slow down its prawn growth targets to meet COVID-19 market conditions.

The Tassal prawn farm at Proserpine.
The Tassal prawn farm at Proserpine.

The company said out of 70 hectares of ponds planned to be built during the 2020-21 financial year, only 20 hectares would be created.

This was despite a 786.4 per cent surge in prawn sales from July to December 2020 compared to the same months of 2019.

"The goal of harvesting 20,000 tonnes by 2030 remains in place and once we get to a 'post-COVID-19 world' this path can be accelerated," the company stated.

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Tassal reported it would produce about 4000 tonnes this financial year and was "well-placed" to further improve efficiencies through continuing work with diets, fish husbandry, selective breeding and automated feeding systems.

The annual federal government fisheries outlook report released in March said the annual gross value of Australia's aquaculture industry was expected to exceed that of the wild-caught fisheries by the 2021-22 financial year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Tassal Group Limited head of supply chain and commercial services Ben Daley and Local Government Minister Sterling Hinchcliffe at the Proserpine Tassal farm.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Tassal Group Limited head of supply chain and commercial services Ben Daley and Local Government Minister Sterling Hinchcliffe at the Proserpine Tassal farm.

"Most Australian prawn production is wild-caught, but the share of aquaculture prawns is increasing," the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences' report stated.

"However, like the wild-caught sector, the aquaculture sector will be challenged by reduced demand for high-value commodities in export markets and lower domestic prices resulting from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19."

Tassal, which also owned prawn farms at Mission Beach and at Yamba in NSW was waiting on environmental approval to further expand its Proserpine farm to 455 hectares of ponds.

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