For­eign stake in farms slumps

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MATT SMITH

FOR­EIGN own­er­ship of South Aus­tralian farms has dropped by a third in the past year, the fastest rate of de­cline in the coun­try, new fig­ures show.

Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice fig­ures re­veal the pro­por­tion of SA agri­cul­tural land with a level of for­eign own­er­ship re­duced from 7,156,000ha in 2015-16 to 4,796,000ha in 2016-17.

This rep­re­sented a drop from 15 per cent to 10.1 per cent of all SA agri­cul­tural land.

The de­cline has been seized on by the Op­po­si­tion as a fur­ther ex­am­ple of where SA is fall­ing be­hind the rest of the coun­try in in­vest­ment.

But South Aus­tralia’s Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Leon Bignell and In­vest­ment and Trade Min­is­ter Martin Hamil­tonSmith have de­clined to com­ment about the de­creases.

The an­nual Reg­is­ter of For­eign Own­er­ship of Agri­cul­tural Land shows the vast ma­jor­ity (4,633,000ha) of land in SA with some for­eign own­er­ship is used for live­stock.

There is also for­eign own­er­ship in land used for forestry, crops and hor­ti­cul­ture.

The re­port does not de­tail where land is owned but shows the UK, China and the US have the great­est in­ter­est in Aus­tralian farms.

North­ern Ter­ri­tory is the na­tion leader in for­eign own­er­ship with 25.6 per cent of its agri­cul­tural land un­der some for­eign own­er­ship. This is fol­lowed by Tas­ma­nia (24.3 per cent), Western Aus­tralia (16.7 per cent) and SA (10.1 per cent).

New South Wales has the low­est level of in­vest­ment with just 4.7 per cent of its agri­cul­tural land un­der some for­eign own­er­ship.

Op­po­si­tion trade and in­vest­ment spokesman Tim Whetstone said SA was fall­ing be­hind most states on sev­eral eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors but the State Gov­ern­ment re­fused to ac­cept the prob­lem.

“In or­der to grow the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs in South Aus­tralia, we need to at­tract as much in­vest­ment as pos­si­ble,” Mr Whetstone said.

“The cost of do­ing busi­ness in SA is too high and driv­ing in­vest­ment in­ter­state.

“In­vest­ment is crit­i­cal at a time when we need to sup­port high-value adding in­dus­tries and cre­ate sus­tain­able jobs for the state’s fu­ture growth.”

A Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gions SA depart­ment spokes­woman said: “The SA Gov­ern­ment recog­nises the need for for­eign in­vest­ment to sup­port agri­cul­ture into the fu­ture, along with the risks as­so­ci­ated with for­eign in­vest­ment and pub­lic con­cerns over the ex­tent of for­eign own­er­ship of agri­cul­tural land, wa­ter and agribusi­ness.

Land own­er­ship is de­ter­mined by mar­ket forces and is a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion for busi­nesses.

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