China’s farm holdings jump 880%
CHINESE interest in Aussie farming land rose by an extraordinary 880% – or 13 million hectares – in the past year while foreign ownership of our land overall dropped.
A report by the Australian Taxation Office shows the area of Australian agricultural land that has a foreign interest has fallen from 52 million hectares to 50 million in the year to June 30.
But the area of land with Chinese interests in it increased from 1.46 million hectares to 14.4 million hectares.
Of the 14 million hectares with a Chinese interest, 9.1 million were entirely owned by Chinese firms.
But in a major crackdown, the Turnbull government has forced overseas buyers to sell $134 million worth of residential and agricultural land – overall 29 properties – they had bought.
The Daily Telegraph obtained addresses of six properties stripped from foreign buyers who flouted Australia’s tough ownership rules to buy them.
One home in Sydney’s leafy Turramurra was bought by a foreign buyer for $2.9 million and one on Bower St, Manly was sold for $1.5 million, with the Chinese owners forced to sell the properties.
The Federal Government has limited the ability of foreigners to buy established homes, so foreign investment is channelled into new homes for Australians to buy or rent.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government had a “commitment to increase scrutiny and transparency in Australian agriculture and foreign investment” while understanding that trade and foreign investment created jobs for Australians.
“The Turnbull government has taken consistent and determined action when it comes to ensuring foreign investment is not contrary to the national interest,” he said.
The ATO report, titled the Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Register, shows in total about 13% of agricultural land in Australia is foreign-owned, as at June 2017, down from 14% in 2016.
The decrease in foreign interests in farming land came from a sharp drop in American ownership.
China is the second biggest investor in Australian agricultural land, owning 25% of foreign-held land. UK owners hold 27%.
Australia has likely reached its peak of Chinese ownership in Australian agricultural land, after the Chinese government’s introduction of restrictions late last month to curb overseas property investment.
Foreign ownership of land fell in South Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory but rose in Western Australia.