China looks for perfect match

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Rob Delane.
Camera IconRob Delane. Credit: The West Australian

Private and stated-owned Chinese businesses are clamouring to attend a major conference in Perth next week, where they will be encouraged to invest in WA's agriculture and food sector.

There is a waiting list for spots at the conference after about 300 people registered - including 170 delegates representing Chinese government and business interests - despite the event clashing with Prime Minister Tony Abbott's trade delegation to China.

Chinese conglomerate COFCO, linked to recent manoeuvring in Australia's grain trade, is one of the sponsors of the conference hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Food.

DAFWA director-general Rob Delane said yesterday it was difficult to separate trade and investment in trying to grow the value of WA's agriculture and food exports to $12 billion a year by 2025.

"Our sector needs to grow and it needs investment other than bank finance," he said.

"While everyone would like to see more from Australian super funds, a lot of it has to be international investment. And a significant part should be investment from the marketplaces for WA and Australian product. Major food and other companies in those marketplaces have a direct incentive to take a greater interest in the supply chain all the way to the farm gate, and in some case inside the farm gate."

The WA-China Agribusiness Co-operation Conference on April 9 will be followed by two days of site visits covering grains, dairy, beef, sheep, wine, fisheries and gourmet foods.

Promotional material outlines key opportunities, including the potential to have major dairy feedlot and processing facilities approved within 90 days.

It also highlights integrated supply chain investment opportunities in the beef industry and the potential to "establish large-scale farms producing a sheep bred for meat".

Investors are also alerted to the potential boost in farm productivity in the Wheatbelt and to higher fodder production through major irrigation projects in the north.

Mr Delane described DAFWA as a match-maker for Chinese and WA business interests. China was WA's biggest market for agriculture and food products in 2012-13, with exports worth $1 billion.

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