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First report reveals extent of foreign farm ownership

The Federal Government has today released a first look at the true rate of foreign investment in Australian farmland.

The Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land (Agricultural Land Register) was established on 1 July 2015 to increase transparency around foreign investment in Australian  agriculture.

Foreign ownership of farmland has become a contentious issue, punctuated by the Government's recent decision to prevent the sale of the Kidman & Co cattle holdings to a Chinese buyer.

The release of data from the Agricultural Land Register provides an unbiased look at the extent of foreign ownership in Australia, to inform debate and future policy settings.

Quick Facts

  • 13.6 per cent or 52.1 million hectares of Australia’s total agricultural land of 384.6 million hectares was foreign owned;
  • Of this, 9.4 million hectares was freehold and 43.4 million hectares held as leasehold;
  • Livestock production was the highest use of foreign-owned agricultural land by area – 45.8 million hectares or 88% of the foreign-owned  total, followed by cropping at 1.5 million hectares or 2.8% of the total;
  • The top source countries for foreign investment are: the UK (27.5 million ha); the USA (7.7 million ha); the Netherlands (2.98 million ha); Singapore (1.9 million ha); then China (1.5 million ha).

Total percentage of Australian agricultural hectares held by foreign persons

The Acting Prime Minister, released the report today, saying it provided the basic transparency necessary to ensure oversight and confidence in agricultural investment.

“This is the first comprehensive data on the actual level of foreign ownership of agricultural land in Australia," Mr Joyce said.

“This common perception that the level of foreign ownership has been increasing seems confirmed.

“The land register is giving us the first comprehensive baseline picture of foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land. From now on the annual reports from the land register will give us more accurate data on which to base public discussion.”

Industry Response

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has welcomed the release of the registry of foreign ownership of agricultural land.
NFF Chief Executive Officer, Tony Mahar, said transparency was key to addressing community concerns around foreign investment in agriculture so as to fill the severe capital shortfall faced by the sector.

“The NFF has long called for a register of this nature to provide firm data around the foreign ownership debate and we most certainly welcome the release of this report,” Mr Mahar said.

“In saying that, we believe more detail is required than has been offered today, particularly in terms of the regional location of foreign-owned properties and the nature of the investment entity.

“It is not necessary to list each and every property, as suggested by the Labor party, however simply providing State and Territory overviews should be the starting point.

“Furthermore, we want to see more detailed information by commodity and have information presented on the proportion of land either partially or wholly owned by foreign government investors.”

Our industry is in need of capital to invest in supply chain assets
Tony Mahar, NFF CEO

Mr Mahar said foreign investment was an important ingredient in helping agriculture extract the full value of thriving market demand for Australian food and fibre.

“Australia needs foreign investment generally, and our deteriorating public finances only make this reliance greater,” he said.

“Our industry is in need of capital to invest in supply chain assets so as to build production and profitability at this time of immense growth opportunity.

“For this to happen, the Government must make available as much information as possible to build community comfort with foreign investment, provide more clarity surrounding the Foreign Investment Review Board approval process and have adequate measures in place to ensure foreign interests are on a level playing field with Australian producers.

More Detail

Proportion of agricultural land held by foreign persons by state or territory

State/Territory Foreign Interests ('000 ha) Australian Agricultural Land (‘000 ha)
Percent Foreign
NSW/ACT 2375 57434 4.1%
VIC 607 12009 5.1%
QLD 7658 135918 13%
WA 8841 81399 10.9%
SA 7156 45837 15.6%
TAS 342 1569 21.8%
NT 15169 50392 30.1%
Total 52147 384558 13.6%

Foreign agricultural land interests by source country

Country Total ('000 ha)
United Kingdom 27,504
United States 7,727
Netherlands 2,976
Singapore 1,862
China 1,463
Philippines 1,119
Switzerland 1,069
Jersey 944
Indonesia 774
Japan 685
Total 46,123

What is your take on these numbers? Are we getting the balance right? Log in and leave us a comment below!

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1 Responses

    A farmer can only sell the farm once and it is gone forever from a family. When we sell off our land then the Australian "family" loses the income from that forever after. The best way to increase investment is by way of a Farm Bank (like China has) and support young Australian farmers to develop family farm enterprises that will support all Australian for generations to come. No way we should be selling land and especially our ports to communist country enterprises because the Government of that country ultimately holds the asset!

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