China plan ‘ridiculous’ | My Machinery
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China plan ‘ridiculous’

Extreme weather, poor soil and a lack of infrastructure would severely curtail any chance of converting northern Australia into China’s food bowl, say Northern Territory cattle producers. The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association executive officer, Luke Bowen, branded it a ”ridiculous” notion yesterday. Mr Bowen responded to details of a plan revealed by the Australian government to lure billions in Chinese investment dollars to open up farm land across northern Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to help feed China’s population – 1.3 billion and growing. News of the joint study with China comes just weeks after Australia signed a free trade agreement with Malaysia, worth an estimated $1 billion in Australian agricultural exports. Talks continue to complete trade agreements with South Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia. China, according to Meat and Livestock Australia’s Asian regional manager, Aaron Iori, is regarded as the next golden opportunity for Australian chilled beef exports, especially for premium cuts as China’s top income earners far outnumber the total population of Australia. Consumption of beef in China was currently 4 kilograms per capita – a low base with room for growth as the newly affluent seek to increase their protein intake beyond the staples of pork and chicken. But Mr Bowen said: ”Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have large tracts of untapped farmland and we work with restrictive vegetation-management regulations, many of which are supported by the federal government, that would make any opening up of undeveloped land and intensifying of current production extremely difficult. There is also extreme weather, pests and lack of roads and other infrastructure and facilities that makes this a very challenging environment.” The executive officer of Western Australia’s Pastoralists and Graziers Association, Ian Randles, said the government’s natural heritage listing for the Kimberley region and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act would present large hurdles for any foreign buyers. Mr Randles said: ”There is definitely land up there suitable for a huge diversity of crops but the federal government’s own legislation is so difficult to work with I’d say that once any potential buyer sees this they’d run a mile.”

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