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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.
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).
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.”
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.
Proportion of agricultural land held by foreign persons by state or territory
Foreign Interests ('000 ha)
Australian Agricultural Land (‘000 ha)
Foreign agricultural land interests by source country
Total ('000 ha)
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