Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Australian Farmers Call For Restrictions on Foreign Investment

Earlier last month, I had posted an article about Brazilian and Argentinian legislators contemplating potential restrictions on foreign investment in the agricultural sector. It's not just South Americans who are concerned about the hot inflow of money into the agricultural sector. Australia, a mining and agricultural powerhouse, is undergoing some of the same pressures.

Australian Farm Federation Questions Foreign Investment
Australia's National Farmers' Federation may seek restrictions on foreign ownership in the agricultural industry, its president Jock Laurie said.

Foreign investment is "certainly being questioned by the Australian community," said Laurie. "The industry in general and the Australian community in general though wants to see some sensible parameters put around who can invest and who can't invest in the industry," he said.

Laurie was testifying to the Senate Economics Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the Foreign Acquisitions Amendment (Agricultural Land) Bill. The inquiry was established to review legislation proposed by independent senator Nick Xenophon and Greens senator Christine Milne to establish a national interest test on proposed foreign acquisitions of farm land. At present, the treasurer only has to assess purchases by foreigners of farm land valued at 231 million Australian dollars (US$241 million) or more.

Recent international investment into the Australian agricultural industry include, Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd.'s A$1.84 billion purchase of CSR Ltd.'s Sucrogen sugar and renewable energy unit, which produces 40% of Australia's sugar output. U.S. agri-business giant Cargill Inc. is waiting for final regulatory approval for its purchase of the commodity management arm of AWB Ltd., the country's biggest wheat exporter, from Canada's Agrium Inc.

Rice farmers are considering a A$600 million offer for their processing and food company RiceGrowers Ltd., which trades as SunRice, from Spain's Ebro Foods SA.

Xenophon previously told the Senate that purchases of farm land had accelerated since the global food demand crunch in 2008, naming China, South Korea, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states as buyers who have been most aggressive in their purchases. Laurie agreed that the rise in food prices in recent years had generated interest in Australian farm land.

"We need to make sure we maintain competition in the market," he said.

Source: CME News for Tomorrow
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