Author Topic: 11pc of Australian farm land foreign-owned. 18.1.2012  (Read 2106 times)

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11pc of Australian farm land foreign-owned. 18.1.2012
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2012, 04:53:16 PM »
11pc of farm land foreign-owned
The World Today

Updated January 18, 2012

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) says it is concerned by the rising level of foreign investment in agricultural land and says it welcomes more regular research into the issue.

A report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research Economic and Sciences (ABARES) shows the amount of farmland that is either partly or wholly foreign-owned has increased by nearly 60 per cent since the early 1980s.

But it also found that roughly 99 per cent of agricultural businesses by number are entirely Australian owned, as is 89 per cent of agricultural land and around 91 per cent of water entitlements.

The Government says the report shows that foreign investment is a good thing for Australia, but it has decided to commission more regular research into the issue, a move the NFF welcomes.

"We've got a baseline now with the work that's been done and we're going to have biennial assessments," NFF president Jock Laurie said.

"I think that's crucial to understand where the trends are, where the trends are going, and obviously if there needs to be adjustment made to the Australian policy in regard to what the trends are showing."

Mr Laurie says the numbers do not tell the full story.

"Over the last few years there has been some changes in the way that foreign ownership has come in," he said.

"The changes we've seen over the last few years are very much associated around... probably purchases around mining areas, for instance, and also overseas governments looking seriously at coming in and being players for the Australian market."

Mr Laurie says the Federal Government should apply a national interest test to some investments from foreign governments and continue to monitor any changes in levels of overseas ownership.

But the NFF acknowledges foreign investment can be "enormously" beneficial.

"It has maintained ... lots of big players coming into the market and even though they're buying top-end properties, you get the ripple effect right through the property market in Australia," Mr Laurie said.

"What that does is maintain equity levels in rural land right across all property holders within the Australian community, and that's been very important.

"They also in many ways... invest a lot of money into the industry. They use a lot of new technology, they drive a lot of R and D within their own industry, so there are some very good components."

The Federal Opposition says there are still many unanswered questions about the level of foreign ownership of agricultural land.

Agriculture spokesman John Cobb says the level of detail in the report is disappointing.

"It doesn't show what the value of land is as compared to what it was once," he said.

"It doesn't show what areas of production are involved. It doesn't even say where the land is.

"And what's even more disappointing is that the Government says 'we don't know very much about this and we're going to report to you more often about what we don't know'."