Dubai-funded agribusiness buys another 1,363 acres in Osceola County

Global agribusiness firm Optimum Agriculture has expanded its Osceola County holdings, paying $7.9 million on Friday for 1,363 acres of orange groves adjacent to the El Maximo Ranch.

It was the second major Central Florida acquisition this year for the company, which partnered with the Investment Corporation of Dubai to finance large agricultural investments in the U.S. and Argentina.

In May, the partners paid $136.5 million for the 38,453-acre cattle ranch. 

Florida-based Alico Inc., the largest citrus producer in the United States, was the seller. Alico had purchased the land, which has 921 acres of groves, from the Latt Maxcy Corporation in late 2012. 

Optimum CEO Gaston Marquevich told GrowthSpotter the firm is actively looking for more citrus assets. 

"We believe Florida will be able to find the solution to citrus greening, and we will be in a good position," he said. 

Citrus greening is believed to have infected up to 90 percent of the state's commercial orange groves and cost the state's economy billions in lost revenue. 

MetLife Real Estate Lending LLC provided $8 million in financing for the buyers. 

Land specialist Dean Saunders, managing partner of Saunders Real Estate in Lakeland, brokered the sale. He said the grove is well-maintained and productive, but it was just outside of Alico's core Polk County market, and it's proximity to El Maximo made the firm a natural buyer.

"The citrus grove used to be a part of the ranch," he said. 

Saunders said citrus groves have been transacting at a rapid pace, and it's not all for development.

"The smaller growers are getting out of the business, and the big growers are getting bigger," he said. "There's a lot of consolidation. The growers feel like they have to have scale to make it work." 

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