IN DISCUSSION: AA&ES company director Steven Keating speaks with Chinese investors.
IN DISCUSSION: AA&ES company director Steven Keating speaks with Chinese investors. Julia Baker

Chinese interest up for Western Downs

FROM Mongolia, Hong Kong and Shanghai to Roma and Chinchilla - it's not every day a delegation of Chinese businessmen tour the Western Downs.

But Steven and Ursula Keating last week hosted a contingent of six investors from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Inner Mongolia.

The Chinese investors have shown an interest in the local beef industry that could pave the way for major investment in the region.

Mr Keating, company director of Australian Agricultural and Environmental Solutions (AA&ES), said Chinese investor interest in the Western Downs region has been ignited by Australia's clean and green reputation and strong biosecurity and quarantine protocols.

The visit was the culmination of the Keatings spending a year building key contacts in China.

"There is a very high demand for beef that can be branded and marketed accordingly," he said.

"The significance of today is that they've seen stock in the flesh and we've showed them our property. We've been able to build more of a relationship.

"We've liaised a lot and thrown a lot of figures around in terms of buying and running cattle, slaughtering it, right through to live export, so we've been through the whole paddock to plate.

"There are a lot of investors in China watching us and looking at the figures."

Following a tour of AA&ES operations stretching through to Roma, the delegation returned to the Keating's recently- acquired property, The Shanti, on Charley's Creek west of Chinchilla.

AA&ES general manager David Fraser said the historic The Shanti property is the latest addition to the company's growing business portfolio and is a fitting acquisition given the property's historic significance to the region's biosecurity journey.

Mr Fraser said AA&ES had developed a reputation throughout the Surat Basin for its alignment of sustainable agriculture with environmental management.

"We've gotten to the stage where we're really looking at cattle and land and how to build an investment opportunity for Chinese money they know about and have access to but need to substantiate an investment model that their investors are going to have confidence in," Mr Fraser said.

"Both initiatives are well within our core capabilities and their recent implementation serves as yet another local demonstration of our company's expertise in managing both environmental and agricultural projects," he said.

Industry experts have confirmed Chinese investors are seeking opportunities to lease local land for cattle production and to process them locally before exporting product to China to meet market demands.

Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Paul McVeigh welcomed the delegation and discussed with them the advantages of investing in the region.

Cr McVeigh said he was on hand to meet the delegation to show his support for the development of new business on the Western Downs and "the next level of business in the industry".

"Steve has made the commitment to invite them back in to our region to look at what is going to be growing our agricultural resources and putting opportunity in there to put processes in place," he said.

"The delegation were pretty excited that council said we would support and drive the development of business and I think they were impressed with what Steve was showing them."

Cr McVeigh said the business model the Chinese hoped to apply to the local cattle industry is unique.

"I like their model, it's not about buying our land," Cr McVeigh said.

"What they want to do is lease land and own the stock, so the landholder is getting something back."

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