China is on the hunt for new food sources to feed its one and a half billion people and its central government has ordered $3 trillion be spent securing food and farmland overseas.
A significant share of that fortune is already flowing to Australia — a trend likely to increase with the signing of a Free Trade agreement with China last month.
The timing of the shopping spree couldn’t be better for the Chinese, with so many Aussie farms going broke. Banks are looking to sell properties and overseas buyers are eyeing off our clean, green land.
John Codrington, a business advisor who grew up on a farm in Moree, has been tracking the rate of foreign investment and says it is cause for alarm.
“The Chinese government has now relaxed their one child policy, which will mean that over the ensuing years we are going to see an increased in a number of mouths to feed in China and their agriculture industry over there won’t be able to feed them,” he said.
Nearly 50 million hectares of agricultural land has some level of foreign ownership – that’s an area twice the size of Victoria.
While there is no comprehensive national list of foreign investment in rural land, we do know that last year 69 countries bought a piece of Queensland, spending 1.7 billion dollars in total – and the biggest spender was China.
Federal Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, is an outspoken supporter of Aussie farmers and says we should be wary of ‘investors’.
“It’s not ‘investing’, they’re not opening mines or building dams or anything of that nature, they’re just buying the asset that is there. So it’s not investment, it’s selling your country off.”
He says where Aussie farmers have failed, the Chinese are primed to make profits.
“We sell for $2.50 a kilogram, our cattle, it sells in China for $30 or $40 a kilogram. So if you are the person in China getting the $30 or $40 dollar per kilogram then, Australia looks very attractive.
“But if you’re the poor old farmer in Australia only getting $2.50 you’re going to go broke.”
Last month one of China’s largest beef producers, Chongqing Hondo Agricultural Group announced it intended to spend 100 million dollars buying Australian cattle stations within the next year.
It may be the tip of the iceberg — Our own trade agency, Austrade, recently reported that as many 300 Chinese companies are currently looking to invest Australia.
“The food we produce is pure and not contaminated and that makes our land very attractive,” Codrington said.
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