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New water barons: foreign farmers swoop on our crops

Do we have a government at all?

Any sane person whether Australian or callithumpian would be hard pressed to make rational comment on the following article. This is how your government protects the citizens of Australia. Readers are welcome to comment without foul language!

Major American and Canadian investment funds and agricultural corporations are pouring money into buying prime irrigated land along the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, despite the local ­furore over cuts to water allo­cations under the $13 billion ­Murray-Darling Basin Plan. One of Australia’s largest irrigated cotton farming properties, the 15,000ha Gundaline Station in the NSW Riverina near Hay, has been snapped up this week for more than $70 million by a consortium of North American bidders believed to be linked to the Westchester group.

Source: News Corp

New water barons: foreign farmers swoop on our crops

Besides continuing to grow cotton, the new buyers are expected to expand the farm — which only three years ago was sold for $25m by former Riverina water baron John Kahlbetzer to Hong Kong interests — and plant its grazing land with irrigated ­almonds or citrus trees using its valuable 16,000 megalitre Murrumbidgee water entitlement.
The Gundaline sale follows several other corporate deals in the past year in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys by foreign companies and local ­investors, which have more than doubled land values across the southern Murray-Darling Basin since 2014.
One of the early corporate investors in the Murray Valley ­region, VicSuper, is not surprised by the flood of foreign money into the region. Its farm manager, Brendan Watson, has overseen the transformation of 9000ha of rundown dairy farms into a sophisticated corporate cropping farm where land values have soared and every drop of water is valued.
“Water is an increasingly valuable asset and everything we do here in terms of our farming and crop ­decisions is an exercise in maximising our profits per megalitre of water used,’’ Mr Watson said.
The new foreign buyers are ­attracted by buoyant global export markets for nuts such as ­almonds and walnuts, the re-emergence of oranges and ­mandarins as an in-demand crop in China, and soaring prospects for table grapes and avocado ­expansion.
Near Robinvale in northern Victoria, investors looking for a farm to grow highly profitable table grapes — which this year will break the $600m production value for the first time on the back of exports to China — recently paid $5.1m for a 570ha property on the banks of the Murray, or more than $9000 a hectare.
The same semi-developed irrigation property sold just three years ago for less than $4000/ha, according to CBRE head of rural property Danny Thomas.
“I don’t understand all this negativity about how things are going for farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin, when around the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers between Griffith, Hay and Mildura I have never seen land sales so buoyant,” Mr Thomas said.
“I have got 10, mainly US and North American groups out there right now looking for irrigated land to plant with citrus and ­almonds; they think the land is fantastic value compared with the central valley of California, they like our sophisticated water trading regimen and the reliable ­nature of water availability, and they are looking at selling produce into the growth markets of Asia.
“None of this negativity and hyperbole about the supposed lack of irrigation water in the southern basin is fact-based; clearly these sophisticated funds and investors from overseas see the situation here for irrigated agriculture much more positively than most locals.”
Mr Watson’s VicSuper farm is an exception. This year the farm between Kerang and Lake Boga, downstream from Swan Hill, will grow ­irrigated cotton, organic wheat, processing tomatoes, lucerne hay and organic fruit worth more than $14m on 3200ha of the farm that has been developed for maximum water ­efficiency use using the ­latest laser-levelling technology, soil moisture sensors and underground drip irrigation.
“We use only 7.5 megalitres of water to grow a hectare of cotton here using (subsurface) drip irrigation, whereas in the old days in northern NSW with flood irrigation it was more than 10ML/ha; our criteria is to achieve a $250 ­return for every per-megalitre of water and organic grain, tomatoes and cotton give us those excellent margins we want.’’
Mr Watson said the VicSuper farm had to be ready for drought years when river water would become more expensive to buy, which may force the company to decide between using its water entitlements itself on its own crops, or selling them that year to an outside bidder.
“It’s an economic reality; when there are dry years, more people will want the water and economics will dictate where it ends up; which will probably be with farmers with permanent plantings of almond trees, avocados, citrus or grape vines who can’t afford to let them die,” Mr Watson said.
“We have to make sure now in this environment that our business can make money from our water at every price point; that means ensuring the property has a focus on long-term sustainability not just from its productive agriculture but from looking after the rest of our landscape too.”
Federal Water Minister Ann Ruston says the return of profitability to the citrus and table grape industry and the boom in ­almond investment is testament to the benefits of placing a real value on Murray irrigation.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Lorraine 10/01/2018, 6:57 am

    Earth Farms and land, no one is making it anymore. The universe is what it is , just think of the value of this same land had the Greens and Labor built dams, with the capacity to store water. WOW

    • The Jeweller 11/01/2018, 7:07 am

      Not only no more being made ….. 70% is uninhabitable – not much of a planet eh?

  • luk1955 10/01/2018, 6:59 am

    And I say the local mps are getting a cut of the sale price, stowed away in an overseas bank account, far from the prying eyes of the public. The politicians have done everything else to sell this country out, so no surprise here.

  • Ibbit 10/01/2018, 10:03 am

    It is criminal that our major super funds are not doing what VicSuper has done – bought up run-down farms and made them profitable. Hopefully the major part of what they produce will stay in Australia for the benefit of Australians, not those elsewhere. Heard the price of a particular type of wheat has increased and that that is likely to force up the price of flour which will have an impact on just about everything in the supermarket. Seems part of the problem for Australians is that a sort of artificial shortage is being kept here which of course forces up prices as with gas and electricity for example and no doubt to come, water.

  • Biking Voter 10/01/2018, 10:51 am

    “Water is an increasingly valuable asset.” ….No it’s not. It is a priceless strategic commodity more valuable than anything else on this planet.

    “I don’t understand all this negativity about how things are going for farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin.” …. No of course you don’t, you’re just a real estate thief that doesn’t care who pays your profits and commissions. You have no loyalty to Australia.

    The government doesn’t care either as long as they keep raking in stamp duties and GST. They also have no loyalty to Australia and why should they, after all quite a few of them aren’t eligible to be parliamentarians. Just keep on troughing.

    • Botswana O'Hooligan 10/01/2018, 3:03 pm

      And the minister responsible for water in the Howard government was none other than mr malcolm turnbull.

  • Clarion Call 10/01/2018, 2:42 pm

    Selling off the farm has a new dimension today in Australia. Few other sensible countries would ever contemplate such a situation as being not in the national interest. Our brain-dead pollies who have absolutely nothing of the nation-first spirit we sorely need in a dynamic but polarised global socio-economic climate. Politicians aren’t voted in by the public…they are the result of the so called swamp creatures getting together to ‘rig the system’ for the ultimate benefit of some morally corrupt parties and individuals. It does appear that a good number of candidates go into politics with modest wallets but end their term with significantly healthier bank accounts, a la Barack O’Bongo and the crooked Clintons to mention just three ‘lucky’ politicians. I’ve said it before, until we get rid of all politicians and run the nation like a corporate business, without unions, we’ll continue to decline.

  • Zoltan 10/01/2018, 8:53 pm

    Luckily they don’t really own it, merely lease it from those in Buckingham Palace.
    Who needs a Republic anyway?

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