Milestone nears for KAI’s flagship farm

EXCLUSIVE Cally DupeCountryman
Jim Engelke.
Camera IconJim Engelke. Credit: Cally Dupe

The Chinese-owned company farming large parcels of the Ord hopes to finish developing its flagship and biggest farm this year, nearly seven years after being awarded the rights.

Kimberley Agricultural Investment plans to put the final touches on nearly five years of farm development work across the 7400ha it leases at Goomig, north of Kununurra, by the end of the year.

KAI has invested more than $60 million dollars developing land at Ord Stage 2 since it was named the project’s preferred proponent by the State Government in 2012.

Its main focus has been on a 7400ha parcel of farmland at Goomig where it grew its first crop — 600ha of chia and sorghum — in 2015.

The company finished clearing at Goomig that year but has been busy with farm development work, including laser levelling, earthworks and infrastructure installation.

KAI general manager Jim Engelke said the company would finish development work at Goomig by the end of October, just in time for the Kimberley wet season.

“We are seven years into this process and we are still ticking along in the right direction and things are falling into place,” he said.

“In some people’s perspective this has been a bit slow, but things are falling into place, never mind the speed.

“Clearing was finished a long time ago, then came earthworks, then ploughing, then surveying, farm designing, lasering, and infrastructure installation.”

While KAI started small by cropping 600ha at Goomig in 2015, it quickly increased to 1700ha the next year.

The company cropped 4500ha at Goomig this year — mostly maize — and plans to put the remaining 700ha to crop next year.

KAI, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Zhongfu, reached another important milestone when it started to clear two other parcels of land in the Ord.

It has started to clear the 6000ha it leases at Knox Plain and 15,000ha of freehold land it owns at Carlton Plain.

KAI holds a 50-year, peppercorn lease at the Goomig and Knox sites, making it the biggest farmer in the Ord.

It made its first purchase in the Ord in 2016 when it bought the 476,000ha Carlton Hill Station north of Kununurra from Consolidated Pastoral Company.

KAI plans to crop 15,000ha of freehold land included in the sale, at Carlton Plain, and has leased the rest back to CPC.

KAI hopes to finish clearing Knox within three years and farm development work within five years, after starting to clear in May.

Carlton Plain would also be developed in stages, Mr Engelke said, with the first 2500ha already cleared after starting work in April 2019.

Mr Engelke said it would be at least two years before KAI planted its first crop at Knox and Carlton. The company hopes to apportion its program to cotton one day, but it first needs a gin built in Kununurra due to the high cost of trucking cotton to Queensland.

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