HIS 40 hectare property lease in China is worth an estimated $30 million, but Qianlong Ji wants to sell it for a slice of Australia’s agricultural land.
Chinese investment in Australian agriculture is often a catalyst for controversy, but Mr Ji, chairman of China Wool Industrial Association (CWIA) and president of the Zhangjiagang Yangtse Wool Combing company, believes the relationship can help revive the global wool industry.
Mr Ji is required to pay about AUD$200,000 in annual fees to lease his $30m property from the Chinese Government, under property laws which prevent full ownership.
Foreign investment was debated at length during the first meeting of the CWIA held outside China for the first time in its 20-years at iconic Victorian fine wool property, Lal Lal Estate, at Yendon near Ballarat.
Lal Lal was purchased in 2014 by the world’s largest wool top-maker Tianyu Wool and its owner-president, Quignan Wen.
The conference was attended by 130 delegates from China’s 80 major wool processors, spinners and wool textile manufacturers, whose members purchase a combined $2 billion of Australian wool last year.
Mr Ji told the meeting Australians should not be concerned about “law abiding Chinese people”.
“They can’t take the land back to China,” Mr Ji said.
China has poured more than $75 billion into investment in Australia, representing a relatively minor three per cent of the country’s total 13 per cent foreign owned land.
Australia China Business Council chair Barry White, director ProEx Developments, said Australian needed to generate more investment from China.
“It is extremely important that Australia realises we are in a very globally competitive environment. If we make life difficult for potential investors to come here and partner with us and invest in Australia, they’ll go elsewhere, which is already the case,” Mr White said.
“It is true there are fears in the community generally about the extent of Chinese investment, generally, but more particularly acquisition of farmland… it has been a political issue as well, with a lot of it unfounded.”
China has 1.34 million high-net-worth people, which represents individuals with at least $US1.5m in assets. There are about 568 billionaires with a combined net worth equivalent to Australia's GDP.
“Where we see the benefits is the opening up of partnerships, of new markets, new products and new opportunities for Australia and China,” Mr White said.
“That is what we need to focus on, not just the size of the investment and the political noise around that.”
The Tianyu-Lala Lala relationship was a successful foreign investment model, he said, similarly to Shandong RuYi’s purchase of Cubbie Station, St George, Qld, and New Hope Group’s $100 million partnership in Moxey Farms, Gooloogong, NSW.
He said these “joint venture” style investments, retained the local knowledge and labour, while leveraging off global trade partnerships.
“A lot of concerns in the farm sector have been about farm stewardship, that is the protection of the land, degradation, water use and the impact on local communities,” Mr White said.
“… There are great examples now about how those fears are really unfounded.”
Mr Wen, who claimed Lal Lal Estate to be his best investment in his 37 years in the wool industry, encouraged his peers to “open their eyes and broaden their horizons” by investing in Australian agricultural land.
“Come here, put your hands in your pockets, and buy a wool property,” he said.