Putting foreign investment under the microscope

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 23rd November 2010

A Federal Government-led investigation to shed light on the extent and impact of foreign investment in Australian agriculture and its supply chain has been welcomed by new National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Jock Laurie as “long overdue”.

“We need to recognise that the growth and expansion of Australian enterprises – including agriculture, which accounts for 12% of GDP – greatly depends on foreign investment,” Laurie said.

“Equally, I think most people would be alarmed by the lack of transparency when it comes to who owns what, especially in agricultural production and the supply chains that dictate prices.

“Anecdotally, we’re told that foreign interests, both government and privately owned, are targeting farm property in Australia to shore-up their own food security, so it’s reasonable that Australians fully understand what, if any, impact such moves have on our farm sector and, ultimately, consumers.

“As food security concerns escalate around the world, Australia’s vibrant farm sector and its supply chain are increasingly attracting attention as a strong investment prospect for international investors.

“With the drought breaking on the east coast and bumper crops expected, world commodity prices soaring and global population exploding, it’s understandable. But we’re entitled, as a community, to know exactly what’s going on and what the impacts are.

“Investors are attracted by Australia’s reputation for high quality and safe production, our proximity to booming Asian economies, counter-seasonal production cycles, low levels of sovereign risk and productivity growth that is the envy of agricultural producers worldwide.

“While foreign investment injects large amounts of capital into our production systems, it is prudent to put the microscope over Australia’s foreign investment framework and its capacity to ensure that the interests of our farming communities, and the nation, are protected.

“Shedding light on the current level and involvement of foreign ownership and activity is long overdue. Naturally this includes examining agricultural land ownership, but must also extend to the means of production, such as supply chain factors in the processing sector and water entitlements, to give us all a better idea of the impact overseas investment is having.”