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In late April 2012, a Chinese investment group trading as Kimberley Agricultural Investments (KAI), launched a bid to buy 15,000 hectares of land in the Kimberley region of North-Western Australia. With a population of 1.3 billion, China’s investment in foreign agricultural land is motivated by increasing food requirements and a need to secure food resources for its future population. This sale of land to a foreign investor, however, has led to much debate over legislation changes, questions of sovereignty, monitoring of land acquisition by foreign companies and questions about Australia’s own plans for long-term food security.
The Chinese company developing the second stage of the Ord Irrigation Scheme in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is sowing its first crops. KAI general manager Jim Engelke said it was a significant milestone for the project.“We started planting our first crops late last week and we should have the first portion of it finished by today,” he said.
It’s the first day of the corn harvest and as a header moves cautiously through the crop, a message is delivered via two-way radio.“Don’t be afraid to use a bit of speed,” says one of the managers in a nearby truck.That is a polite way of saying hurry up, as not only the wet season approaches, but as the latest foreign entrant to the Ord River in remote northern Australia pushes hard to prove its concept can work…
The Chinese-owned company farming large parcels of the Ord hopes to finish developing its flagship and biggest farm this year, nearly seven years after being awarded the rights. KimberleyAgricultural Investment plans to put the final touches on nearly five years of farm development work across the 7400ha it leases at Goomig, north of Kununurra, by the end of the year.
West Australian farmers who had almost lost hope of ever seeing the Ord Irrigation Scheme expand beyond the border have celebrated the release of prime agricultural land by the NT Land Corporation this week. After years of water and soil testing, three large parcels of land are about to be put on the market via an expressions of interest process, including a significant 67,500-hectare parcel adjacent to the WA/NT border called the Keep Plains Agricultural Development.
Kimberley Agricultural Investment (KAI), with financial injections from the Federal Government and the private sector, is about to harvest Western Australia’s first wet season commercial cotton crop in nearly fifty years and Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champion Alexander Stephens will be the man doing the picking.
Large-scale cotton farming next to the Lower Ord River hit another milestone with Kimberley Agricultural Investment receiving environmental approval from the State Government to clear 3055ha of land on Carlton Plain. The Shanghai Zhongfu-owned KAI bought Carlton Hill Station off Consolidated Pastoral Company two years ago. KAI leased back the cattle station aspect of the property to CPC with a vision to develop freehold land suitable for irrigated agriculture.
WA’s first commercial-scale cotton picking for about a decade has begun near Kununurra. Kimberley Agricultural Investment has started picking the 350ha of cotton planted this year, using contracted machinery from Dalby in Queensland. KAI general manager Jim Engelke said the cotton was planted in two distinct windows over four weeks after excessively wet conditions in mid-February interrupted planting until early March. As a result, the cotton will be ready for harvest in two batches.
ALMOST $4 million has been allocated by the State government to help establish a cotton gin as part of the East Kimberley’s Ord River Irrigation Area. Premier Mark McGowan and Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan on Tuesday jointly announced a $3.5 million grant to upgrade the power supply to the proposed cotton gin site on Mulligans Lagoon Road.