One of WA's most prominent pastoral families is negotiating with an Indonesian Government-backed syndicate that wants to invest in their massive Kimberley cattle station, 100km east of Broome.
Yakka Munga owner Nathan Webb-Smith said yesterday a group of businessmen from Indonesia had recently inspected his property with a view of forming a "partnership".
The interest in Yakka Munga comes with Indonesia companies, including Government-owned entities, preparing for a spending spree on stations in the far north to secure beef supplies.
WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston met Indonesian Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesuma in Canberra last week to discuss trade opportunities.
Mr Riphat raised the option of two-way investment and management in the cattle industry. It includes Australian investment in ports, feedlots and abattoirs in Indonesia, and Indonesian investment in WA pastoral properties.
Mr Baston said the proposal would allow more consistent standards of animal welfare and strengthen trade ties.
Mr Webb-Smith, 39, said he had been looking to foreign investors for years because of "chaos caused by Federal Government policy resulting in a drastic decrease in the live export trade". "People in Australia are concerned about sovereignty of our soil but after the recent introduction of new Federal policies with regard to live exports, our backs are against the wall," he said.
"This is the only solution we have remaining."
The Federal Government imposed a snap ban on live exports to Indonesia - Australia's biggest market - almost two years ago because of animal welfare concerns. It was lifted within weeks but Indonesia reacted by slashing import quotas and the industry has never recovered.
A crisis meeting of north Queensland cattle producers yesterday urged the Federal Government to back a donation of 100,000 cattle to Indonesia to help producers move stock and as a sign of goodwill.
Landmark Broome livestock and real estate agent Andrew Stewart said some local producers were "holding on for grim life hoping things would get better".
Mr Webb-Smith said industry dynamics were changing and foreign investment could keep beef production in the Kimberley afloat.
His mother Ruth Webb-Smith is vice-president of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association and a partner in Yakka Munga. WAFarmers and the PGA said they supported foreign investment in WA.