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New water barons - foreign farmers swoop on our crops
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Major American and Canadian investment funds and agricultural corporations are pouring money into buying prime irrigated land along the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, looking for irrigated land to plant with citrus and almonds. Near Robinvale in northern Victoria, investors looking for a farm to grow highly profitable table grapes 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. ' 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'. 12 years ago, Kilter Rural began aggregating farms and acquiring water rights on behalf of VicSuper between Kerang and Lake Boga. This year they 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. Kilter Rural farm manager - Brendan Watson explains, “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.’’

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