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Australian Agricultural Industry

Sunday night TV makes very interesting watching and can be quite thought-provoking.

Cashed up Overseas buyers are looking to buy into Australia’s farms and infrastructure. It is no secret that Australian farmers have been hit by the perfect storm caused by the interruption in live export shipping, low prices and drought. This means that more and more producers are being forced off the land while still more cling on for dear life. Either way it makes their assets ripe for the plucking by those with ready access to finance.

Somehow in Australia we must wake up and ensure that we don’t sell land into a closed loop system. By this I mean a closed loop system is where people from a foreign country buy our farms and our processing plants then they could buy ports or develop new ones on their acquired land and send the product out in their own ships. Could it be possible that this closed loop may not involve any sort of wealth creation for Australians?

An investor that comes in with expansive pockets full of dollars to spend could potentially bring their own labour to run their farms, their own trucks or spare parts, fuel, tyres and supplies could be supplied by their own factory ship. To me it is potentially within the realms of possibility that cattle be raised on a overseas owned farm, feedlots by the same company and when fat sent off to slaughter at the overseas owned and operated processing facility, then off to the port owned by overseas interests all on Australian soil.  To me this could potentially mean that small towns that rely so heavily on the local farmer using local supplied goods and service may find that the overseas owned farm and its workforce don’t frequent the pub and don’t rely on the local stores for their wire, drenches, papers and other supplies necessary to run the business.

The problem starts when Australian’s simply haven’t got the money to buy or are being priced out of buying their own farms and we could see foreign interests buying into our primary and secondary industries and possibly developing the aforementioned closed loop system. To my way of thinking we can feed our own people and control our own supply chain but if we don’t it could come back to bite us.

Already we see huge amounts of foreign produced food being imported to Australia yet we hear how much many of these countries need our food for their own security. It seems incredible that we are exporting some of the cleanest foodstuff in the world for others to consume whilst importing similar foodstuffs often of questionable quality. Successive governments seem to have an obsession with supplying Australia with cheap food but of often lesser quality thus potentially compromising the health and safety of Australian consumers but not demanding the same rigorous production standards as expected from Australian food producers which are used as a marketing tool in successfully selling our product overseas.

The fact is we have no readily accessible comprehensive list of land which is owned by foreign interests.  Free-trade agreements  are popular in  this day and age however when we read the fine print we find that  we are not always on a level playing field when it comes to the trading and layer upon layer of restrictions, requirements and rules limit the “free” exchange of trade and we seem to still give away more than we receive.

As usual it is easy to identify the problems that much harder to actually find solutions to keeping investment in our agricultural and supporting industrial assets on shore. In Australia we have millions upon millions of dollars tied up in superannuation however many Australian superannuation companies are reluctant to actually invest in agricultural pursuits in Australia. The interesting part is other countries’ super funds e.g. Canada is keen to invest in Australian agriculture pursuits.  I would have thought that superannuation investment would look the same to all super funds. Surely we could be looking to actually unlocking some of Australia’s super funds to invest in Australian agriculture. It seems a bit ironic that the banks and supermarkets are prime investment for super funds whilst the very thing that keeps wealth in the country is the ability to feed ourselves. A strong, robust population is required to generate wealth and sustain the economy.

As a government and a nation Australia must start thinking about what we can do to attract and sustain investment in our nation from our own people. Our ongoing success and standing in the world’s economic machinations as well as within ourselves as a nation depends on it.

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