15 November 2010

Time to Stop Selling off the Farm

Food security alert! Front page of the paper today - good to see this in the mainstream, but still focused on the symptoms and not fitting it into the big picture of increasing resource pressures elsewhere...

We need to be looking after our farmers better than we look after our bankers!! These are the people who are stewards of our land, of biodiversity, they grow our food and between the ogliopoly of retailers and the screws bankers put on them, their task is made a very difficult, thankless one.

Reposted in
full from Adelaide Now, 15 November 2010

'Every farm sold to foreign investors will be tracked and details published on a national register in a plan to ensure Australia does not run out of viable land to grow food.

Concerns about an overseas buyout of Australia's prime farming land have been raised as foreign governments and private companies invest billions of dollars to feed their own people.

The big sell-off has raised alarm bells - in the bush and in Canberra.

New laws, to be debated in Parliament over the next fortnight, would toughen up foreign investment rules and potentially block sensitive sales to overseas parties.

MPs from across the political spectrum are worried and are demanding greater transparency to ensure Australia's own food supplies are not jeopardised.

Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has flagged plans to conduct an audit of farm sales and is keen to "further strengthen transparency" of foreign ownership in agriculture.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who will introduce a private member's Bill, said the present rules around foreign investment were a "joke".

"No one is even monitoring how much of our farmland we are selling," he said.

"We shouldn't be allowing foreign governments to buy up Australian land to feed their population, when our own Government hasn't stopped to ask whether we are going to have enough production in the future to feed all Australians."

Australia, with its rich and fertile lands and sophisticated farming techniques, is a key target for some of the world's biggest agricultural enterprises.

An investigation by The Advertiser can reveal senior Chinese Government figures will arrive in Australia next month with cheque books ready to invest in agriculture.

More than $9 billion of prized agricultural assets have been sold to offshore interests in the past two years.

Some of Australia's best known farm brands, including Golden Circle, SPC, Dairy Farmers, CSR Sugar, SunRice and AWB, have fallen into foreign hands.

Tens of millions of dollars are being invested in water licences, with American and British investors hoping to exploit a burgeoning $3 billion "market".

Spanish Ebro Foods is bidding $600 million to acquire SunRice while Singapore-based Wilmar International won a $1.75 billion bid for CSR's sugar and renewable energy business.

The global financial crisis triggered food shortages in many countries and is responsible for the big investment push by China, the Gulf States, South Korea and others worried about future food supplies.

President of the Australian Zhejiang International Business Association (AZIBA) Bill Liu said his organisation, representing Chinese entrepeneurs in the eastern coastal province, had billions of dollars to invest in property, mining - and farming.

High on the acquisition "hit list" are dairy assets but Mr Liu said AZIBA was reluctant to buy dairy farms outright. "We just want to guarantee supply of milk powder," he said.

Greens' deputy leader Christine Milne is pushing for stricter controls.

She said countries such as China, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had "begun a massive buy-up of agricultural land and water with a view to feeding their own people through the next crisis".

"It is now imperative Australia protects its land and water as part of national sovereignty," she said.

Richard Verner, who runs a 1700ha cropping and sheep farm 50km north of Adelaide, said he would rather sell his land to locals than to foreign investment.

"Most farmers would like to keep it local, the long-term profits for Australia are better," he said.

"Inevitably, most farmers would be controlled with their wallet, I think everyone has a tipping point."

He said overseas investment usually had a positive effect for the community but it would offer a threat to Australia's foodbowl if foreign governments started buying up "extreme" amounts of land.

"(Foreign investors) buying a paddock here and a paddock there will not present a problem, as long as it does not compromise Australia feeding itself," he said.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comment here. Please note these stories are posted for information rather than for debate; if you wish to disagree with something posted, no problem, but since I post both things that I do and don't support, it would be appreciated if the criticism was about the issue.