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Canadians continue to buy up big

Written by: Duncan B. on 29 April 2021


According to the latest Foreign Investment Review Board data, the number of Australian farms owned by foreign interests increased by nearly 10% in 2019-2020.

China is the biggest foreign-owned landholder with 9.2 million hectares, 8.4 million ha of which is leasehold country. Gina Rinehart is the biggest landowner in terms of size, with 10 million hectares.

The biggest foreign-owned landholder in terms of VALUE is PSP Investments, a Canadian pension fund which manages the superannuation funds of Canada’s public sector, armed forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In the past five years PSP has assembled a portfolio of Australian farmland and water assets worth an estimated $4 billion dollars. They have investments in cropping, beef cattle, dairy farms, cotton, horticulture and almond, macadamia, pecan and walnut orchards.

PSP is keen on purchases which come with attached water rights. In 2019 PSP paid $360 million for 12,000 hectares of Almond orchards in northern Victoria which came with 90,000 megalitres of high security water. PSP also paid $854 million for Webster Limited which gave it 340,000 hectares of land and 153,000 megalitres of water.

Next biggest in terms of value is Macquarie Agriculture with farmland investments over about $3 billion. Macquarie Agriculture is Australian owned but partly foreign-backed by organisations such as the Netherlands’ public sector pension fund. Macquarie has a portfolio of farms totalling more than 4.9 million hectares. They are involved in sheep, cattle, cropping and cotton. They are seeking to expand into citrus orchard and berry farms.

Coming in third with investments in land and water assets of $1.8 billion plus, is the US-based Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF).  They own 73 properties totalling 284,000 hectares.

Foreign investors are keen on investing in Australian agriculture because of Australia’s economic stability and cheaper farmland costs. Investment in Australian agriculture allows investors to take advantage of the opposite seasons in each hemisphere and offset any possible losses with their investments in the northern hemisphere. Institutions that have committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050 can use investments in agriculture to show that they are doing positive things for the environment.

Another area where foreign companies are becoming involved in Australian agriculture is the purchase of soil carbon offsets. Recently two farm companies owned by Rupert Murdoch sold soil carbon credits to Microsoft.

Many Australians are concerned about the continuing take-over of our best farm land by foreign investors. Their hold over vast water rights in this dry continent is of special concern. Control by Australians over our farm land and water is an important part of the fight for National Independence.


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