Foreign investment scrutiny rules safeguard farmers

Sheep Central, May 6, 2015

Recent foreign investment rule changes would help safeguard agricultural value chains from harmful consolidations of market power, NSW Farmers said yesterday.

NSW Farmers believes the changes will give more appropriate levels of scrutiny over foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

The announcement by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer over the weekend was a win for agriculture and for the Australian public, NSW Farmers said.

The new foreign investment changes include:

– a threshold of $55 million for agribusiness purchases by foreign investors that require FIRB scrutiny and approval, also compared to the previous level of $252 million

– a definition of agribusiness to capture first stage processors beyond the farm gate, to which the new $55 million threshold will apply and which was previously lacking

– a register of all foreign ownership of agricultural land, which will paint a clearer picture of the level of foreign ownership in our nation.

Cumulative purchase review is an important safeguard

NSW Farmers economic spokesperson Peter Wilson said the inclusion of first stage processors in the definition of agribusiness was an important and common sense addition to existing scrutiny.

He said in order to preserve efficient and effective market systems, the agricultural value chain must be free of harmful consolidations of market power.

“Consideration of cumulative purchases and purchases of first stage processors by the FIRB process is an important safeguard that ultimately serves the interests of the Australian farmer and consumer.

“It provides an appropriate level of oversight without impeding market forces,” he said.

Greater transparency in foreign investment reviews

Mr Wilson said the foreign investment changes would mean greater transparency and confidence in Australia’s foreign investment review system.

NSW Farmers said it has consistently lobbied for a lower threshold for agricultural land under the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) process and had argued for the consideration of cumulative land purchases.

NSW Farmers has also been lobbying for many years for a register of all foreign ownership of agricultural land, and strongly welcomes the government’s announcement to introduce such a register.

Mr Wilson said the foreign investment announcement should be welcomed as a common sense outcome that will benefit both farmers and the general public.

Source: NSW Farmers


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