Article by: Hari Yellina
If you had to guess which foreign country possesses the most agricultural land in Australia, you probably wouldn’t select the Netherlands. China continues to have the largest share of our farms, which comprises both leased and freehold land. In terms of freehold ownership, the Netherlands has maintained its lead. Over the last five years, foreign ownership has remained very constant, fluctuating slightly depending on overseas investment preferences. For example, Shandong Ruyi, a Chinese textile conglomerate, recently sold a majority share in Cubbie Station, Australia’s largest cotton grower. The irrigation behemoth in Queensland spans 93,700 hectares of agriculture. Twiggy Forrest purchased Balfour Downs (634,000ha) and The Springvale Aggregation (604,430ha) from the Chinese this year in Western Australia.
The Foreign Investment Review Board examines foreign ownership of farm land every year if a foreign interest owns at least 20% of the land. This means that even if the majority of shareholders are Australian, foreign involvement is recorded in the national agricultural land register. At June 30, 2021, the expected amount of agricultural land with “a level” of foreign ownership was 14.1%. This equates to over 53 million hectares. Foreign investment in livestock is by far the most significant, though cropping country spending has increased by 5.2 percent in recent years. The statisticians also discovered that the amount of land set aside for agriculture in Australia has decreased.
“The decline is attributable to the impact of natural disasters on agricultural activity,” the report said, citing drought and flooding in New South Wales and Queensland, as well as bushfires in NSW, Queensland, and Victoria. It also discovered that the percentage of agricultural land owned by foreigners has been largely steady over the last six years. More than 85 percent of agricultural land owned by foreigners is used for cattle, with 83 percent of that property leased. Lease land encompasses large swaths of the Northern Territory, which are controlled in massive cattle ranches. When entire foreign freehold and leasehold interests are combined, China holds 2.3 percent, followed by the United Kingdom (2.2 percent), the United States (0.8 percent), the Netherlands (0.7 percent), and Canada (0.6 percent).
When only freehold land was taken into account, the Netherlands came out on top with 1,661,000 hectares. The Netherlands were followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. Canada, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Germany are among the countries involved. Foreign-owned agricultural land increased in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, while it decreased in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australia. NSW/ACT 2580, Victoria 2187, Queensland 1693, WA 1564, SA 815, Tas. 1344, NT 101 were all listed as having foreign-owned land. In addition, US investors boosted their leasehold holdings in forestry plantations, according to the annual report. The sale of two big permanent leases reduced China’s overall interest by around 700,000ha. Hong Kong’s overall interest increased due to new leasehold agreements.