‘Don’t sell the shop’: Minister fights foreign takeover
AUSTRALIA needs to be "open for business, but not open to sell the shop", Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has warned as foreign interests snapped up an iconic Queensland industry.
Sugar production in Queensland is set to be 95 per cent majority foreign owned by next month, The Courier-Mail revealed this week.
But analysis of foreign ownership of agricultural land reveals one of the state's biggest rural industries has seen a reverse trend.
Foreign ownership in beef, livestock and grazing land has fallen in the past three years in Queensland.
In one significant example, pastoralist Malcolm Harris bought Queensland's Nockatunga Station from multinational Consolidated Pastoral Company in October last year.
The amount of foreign ownership in agricultural land in the state fell from 13 per cent in 2016 to 11 per cent last year.
Land used for livestock made up the bulk of that falling from 15,349,000ha to 13,294,000ha of properties with foreign investment.
But the agriculture industry has this is not likely to continue and warned international investment was vital to keep the industry - and jobs - going.
AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said foreign ownership of agricultural land had been reasonably low and stable in Queensland.
"Foreign capital in Australia can create a lot of good things for Australia, like jobs and economic opportunity," he said.
A 70 per cent share of Mackay Sugar is being bought out by German company Nordzuker, while Isis Central Sugar Mill, southwest of Bundaberg, is expected to go to Pakistani-owned Almoiz Group by the end of September.
It means 19 of the 21 sugar mills in the state, and 95 per cent of the production, will be in foreign hands.
Senator McKenzie said it was her preference for agriculture assets to be majority Australian owned, but there were unique factors in the sugar industry.
"Foreign ownership must be in the national interest-we're open for business but not open to sell the shop," she said.
"The sugar industry has some factors which are unique to this industry, which has resulted in large foreign ownership. Not least of which is the historical low price of sugar.
"Investment is required for Australia's sugar industry to continue to be globally competitive."