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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Promised Land Prospects

Promised Land Prospects.

In the messes of the mounted troops, one frequently hears the prospects of Palestine discussed. The data available is negligible. This gives the greater latitude, since personal observations over a relatively short period of time take the place of statistics; but the result invariably arrived at is, that—acres in and around—would do for each man, the area coveted depending on the district. During the early rains, however, one heard the remark, "I don't give a damn who the land was promised to, so long as he comes and takes it soon."

Take the country from the sea through Gaza to Beersheba, down to Asluj and back to Rafa, nearly all of it will, and does, grow excellent crops or cereals. Most of us remember the crops we fought through on April 19th., '17. The conditions under which the land is cultivated are primitive to a degree. The only attempt I have seen at fallowing is: plough with the early rains, let the ground lie till the later rains, and again plough or sow. Yet, with all these drawbacks, the average yield must be three or four bags per acre over the strip of country mentioned. This, with up-to-date methods of dry farming as practiced in the Mallee and Riverina, would increase to six or seven bags per acre, in some places going up to ten bags.

What is the freight to the home market? Rumor has it that, since no rain falls on the barley grown in this area from its germination and early growth, until it is harvested as ripe grain, the percentage fertility is highly increased, with the result that it is in great demand by distillers and malters. If this is so, what is it worth a ton? A knowledge of these unknowns, indicating land values, crop returns, working expenses and market prices, would enable one to determine the possibilities of the country with some degree of accuracy.

The same holds true with regard to the country north of Gaza. One has seen land extremely suitable for potatoes and onions—vide guide book re Ascalon—and the Jewish colonists have proved beyond doubt that oranges and vines can be grown, and wines produced, whose merit will be vouched for by most members of the A.I.F. and N.Z.E.F. in this part of he world. Enquiries, however, seem to show that most of the colonies are barely self-supporting; that the prices of land suitable for orchards ranged in the same colony from £ 3 to £ 15 per acre; and that the cost of handling the fruit between the orchard and the ship, in the case of oranges, almost swamped the total profit. Yet one knows, that an orange orchard in full bearing should show a profit of about £ 100 per acre, with ordinarly luck.