Support for grain pathway to China
Agriculture Minister Terry Redman.

The State Government has backed a Chinese consortium's move to create its own supply chain to grow and ship grain from WA to China.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said yesterday the plan would create an alternative path to a burgeoning market and attract foreign investment.

The plan, revealed in _The Weekend West _, is to ship grain grown on local and Chinese-owned farms from Albany to China, bypassing CBH's port facilities in a first for WA bulk grain exports.

The recent $29 million sale of 23,000ha of prime agricultural land in WA's south-east to the Heilongjiang Feng Agricultural Group is understood to be start of an expansion, with the HFAG close to getting at least three other farms.

The buy-up comes as debate rages about foreign ownership of Australian agricultural assets. The State Government was already working on a foreign ownership register when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a similar plan last month.

Mr Redman said he expected WA to contribute to the national register but there was no indication of when the register would be up and running.

He was a long-term supporter of a register because it would lead to informed public debate instead of scaremongering and he said the Chinese plan should be a reason for confidence in the sector.

"We have a lot of undeveloped potential in agriculture, notably in the north, and it requires capital investment," he said.

"In this case it opens an alternative pathway to a market and it is a market that will require supply, not just from their properties in WA, but many other properties as well. I see farmers having a greater choice of market options and that should drive down some of their logistical costs."

WA Farmers and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association agreed the register would allow informed debate on the level of foreign ownership.

PGA president Rob Gillam said there was no reason for alarm about foreign ownership, which ebbed and flowed, and a register would ease fears.

The West Australian

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