Foreign stake in farms slumps
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.