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Farmers call for tighter foreign investment controls

Beef Central, 22/07/2011

Farmers concerned at a Chinese company’s ability to buy 43 farms around Gunnedah before attracting public attention are calling for tighter controls on foreign acquisitions.

NSW Farmers is calling on the Foreign Investment Review Board [FIRB] to oversee any foreign request to purchase Australian agricultural land over $2 million.

President Charles Armstrong said in a press release issued during the NSW Farmers annual conference yesterday that many people were shocked to hear how much land Shenhua had been able to purchase, before the details were made public last month.

“The FIRB currently reviews all acquisitions by state-owned entities, such as Shenhua, but is only required to approve purchases by foreign companies over the value of $231 million,” he said.

“A motion passed at Annual Conference today calls for the FIRB to look at all sales of land, including aggregates of small blocks to foreign sovereign interests over $2 million.

“Any sale which could have a negative effect on the Australian economy should not be allowed,” he said.

“The law as it stands leaves the federal government powerless to monitor creeping acquisitions,” he said.

“Sovereign-owned entities see the value in purchasing Australia’s rich soils to grow food and fibre, however in most cases this food and fibre will be shipped back to feed their own populations,” Mr Armstrong said.

“If the FIRB isn’t given the power to monitor the situation closely, national food security could be put at an unnecessary risk,” he said.

NSW Farmers’ continues to call for a register to record all foreign purchases of agricultural land and water licences.

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