Article – Ord work on track

6 December 2014
Jacinta Bolsenbroek
Farm Weekly
CLEARING in the Goomig area is on track, and will likely allow Kimberley Agricultural Investment’s (KAI) Ord development to begin farming 1000 hectares in the next year.
KAI has spent the past year developing 6600ha of Goomig farmlands, which will convert to 50-year leases, and has been seeking approvals for its Knox Plain development.
More than 4600 hectares has been cleared in the region, and earthworks, dam construction and channels construction has been completed.
KAI general manager Jim Engelke said the biggest progress was the bulk clearing, which should be completed by mid-2015.
“We have 1000ha almost ready for farming next year and about 600ha bedded up for chia and sorghum,” Mr Engelke said.
“Next year we plan to finish clearing Goomig.
“We will increase our earthworks and laser work capacity and keep perusing Knox Plains and other land development.”
KAI is due to finish its construction season when the wet begins.
“We have almost finished the 800 mega litre dam on lot 14,” Mr Engelke said.
“We have finished all the channels, we are putting in the drains on lot 17, 18 and 14, which is a combined area of about 1300ha.
“It has been a successful year and I think we are all looking forward to a rest.
“It has been a big season, and everyone involved has put in a good effort.”
Greater scale is required by the company to justify the establishment of a sugar industry, but it is making planning progress.
The company is seeking approvals for Knox Plain, which will open up a further 5000ha of arable land.
Other parcels that could form part of the required scale could include Mantinea (about 4000ha) and lands in the Northern Territory (12,000ha).
Mr Engelke said the Knox Plain approvals were a priority.
The focus on scale is important to KAI, as without it, a sustainable and economically viable sugar industry is not possible.
Mr Engelke said a $700 million to $1 billion investment in sugar depends on achieving scale through further land becoming available for production.
“Scale is necessary to underpin the investment in both processing and logistics infrastructure to ensure a competitive sugar industry,” he said.
An agreement was signed last month with Kimberley traditional owners to allow work to progress on Knox Plain, but environmental approvals are yet to be negotiated.
The signing was witnessed by Premier Colin Barnett and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, who also toured the Ord project.
KAI is not active in the negotiations of NT land, and the territory government is leading the process.
The Chinese company Shanghai Zhongfu, which trades in Australia as KAI, leases the irrigated farmland under the Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project which has attracted a lot of interest from politicians, farmers and overseas delegates.
Officials, including Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, Chinese representatives and the Chinese Consul General to WA, Huang Qinguo, visited the region this year.
The vision to recreate a booming sugar industry in the Kimberley was also aided by a deal, settled in July, with Cambridge Gulf.
The KAI also bought an unused mill about 20 kilometres north of Kununurra.
The mill closed in 2007 after 12 years of operation, which contributed just below one per cent of Australia’s raw sugar production.
Although a lot of work is needed to restore the old mill, engineers have been making assessments and working with KAI on the preliminary requirements needed.
KAI’s intention is to process sweet sorghum through the mill with the resulting syrup made into Baijiu, a white spirit consumed in Asia.
The company wants to process up to four million tonnes of cane annually, producing the equivalent of 500,000t of export sugar crystal.

Courtesy of Farm Weekly