18/01/2012 - 13:54

Foreign investment threshold too high: WAFarmers

18/01/2012 - 13:54

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Foreign investment threshold too high: WAFarmers

Farmers in Western Australia say the federal government has ignored the concerns of farmers nationwide by failing to decrease the threshold for foreign investment in agricultural land.

The current threshold for review by the FIRB is $231 million.

Western Australian Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said the threshold was far too high, with the average value of agricultural properties in the state landing between $1 million and $10 million.

“You could sell off the majority of the Western Australian agricultural sector and not trigger the interest of the FIRB,” Mr Norton said.

“Whilst our concern is not with the foreign investment itself, WAFarmers sees the potential for large-scale sovereign-based investment to be detrimental for operational Western Australian farmers, as there is the potential for farm businesses to be negatively impacted by foreign investment that is not aligned to the traditional market mechanisms.”

Mr Norton said the failure by the government to decrease the threshold would create a two year window for opportunistic investors to buy up prime agricultural land in WA.

An Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) report released today found 11.3 per cent of agricultural land - or 44 million hectares - is wholly or partly foreign owned.

One per cent of Australia's 135,648 agricultural businesses was held by the same.

The foreign ownership levels are relatively unchanged since 1983-84.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) praised some aspects of the document but said it was important the activities of foreign ownership in agricultural are monitored.

"Foreign investment continues to be a major source of contention for our members and the wider agricultural industry, but until now, we have not had a clear picture of what investment is actually being made in agricultural land and agribusinesses," NFF president Jock Laurie said.

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