Arabs to buy WA land?

Farm Weekly | 17/12/2008


THE Agriculture Department denies a recent WA trade delegation visit to several Middle Eastern countries was to promote selling WA agricultural land for grain and livestock.

Department grains industry director Peter Metcalfe, who on last month’s visit, said the group was invited to show what WA could offer for grain, dairy, horticulture and livestock production.

The trip included Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Metcalfe said the Saudi Arabians were moving away from irrigated agriculture and were looking at opportunities to import food and grow it overseas.

"They have had a change in water policy as their fossilised water did not seem to be renewing itself,” Mr Metcalfe said.

Mr Metcalfe said the Saudis were also interested in producing food overseas and had already bought land in New Zealand to grow fat-tailed lambs. The Saudis had also bought land in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Ethiopia, Sudan and Jordan for grain production.

“They are also looking at buying land in Argentina and Brazil,” he said.

Mr Metcalfe said the visit was to see how well placed WA fared compared to other countries.

We were not out there selling individual farms,” he said.

But he said the potential investment of Saudi investors in WA land could range from $200 million to $1 billion for individual projects.

Mr Metcalfe said the Middle East investors were interested in buying farms and having them managed by WA farm managers. He said some of these deals could be completed within 18 months. “They are looking at this purely as a commercial investment,” he said.

Mr Metcalfe said that some of the individual land deals could be spread between states to spread the risk.

He said he saw the investment as a positive outcome for WA agriculture because it would underpin land values, increase economies of scale and provide an opportunity for growers to exit the industry. WAFarmers president Mike Norton said while there had been plenty of overseas investment in WA agriculture in the past, the most successful operations were still WA family farming enterprises.

He said the department’s focus should be on encouraging existing WA producers to stay on the land.

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