AUSTRALIA, Sydney. The area of farmland under partial or full Chinese ownership has dramatically increased over the past year as the level of American and British interests has fallen. Official figures released by the Australian Taxation Office showed that 50.5 mill. ha. of Australian farmland was foreign owned or part foreign owned at the end of June.
The figure is down from 52.1 mill. ha. one year earlier but the figures show that Chinese interest in Australian farmland has surged to 14.4 mill. ha., up from 1.46 mill. ha. a year earlier, thanks to some major deals.
The latest "Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land" said the sale of the outback cattle empire owned by S. Kidman and Co. to Australian Outback Beef, in which Chinese investors have a 33% interest, alone increased the level of Chinese ownership of Australian farmland by 2.6 mill. ha.
The United Kingdom remains Australia's largest foreign investor in agricultural land. UK investors own around 2.6% of total agricultural land, Chinese investors own around 2.5% of total agricultural land) and American investors own 0.7% of the nation's agricultural land.
The register reveals the large share of foreign ownership in two particular jurisdictions, Northern Territory and Tasmania. In the Northern Territory 25.6% of agricultural land is foreign owned. While in Tasmania, where farmland is often highly sought after because of fertile soils and good rainfall, 24.3% of agricultural land is foreign owned. In Tasmania, Chinese interests have invested heavily in dairy, for instance.
Another stand out of the report is the high number of agricultural properties in both New South Wales and Victoria that are foreign owned. In New South Wales/ACT foreign interests hold 1,949 agricultural properties. South of the Murray River, in Victoria, 1,726 agricultural properties are foreign owned.
Nationwide, livestock properties are the number one property owned by foreign interests. The second largest farmland category owned by foreign investors is cropping land.
The foreign ownership of farmland figures includes farmland held on a leasehold basis. The report said about 80% of foreign held agricultural land is held on a leasehold basis.