Greg Mason, from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, says countries and regions facing 'peak water' like China, India and the Arab states are looking to solve food shortages by growing crops in places like the Ukraine and Australia.
Despite criticism for Chinese efforts to acquire large-scale farmland in Africa, China is seen continuing to aggressively pursue acquisitions in other countries. says Michael Whitehead, executive director of the food and agribusiness research and advisory unit at Rabobank International.
The debate over foreign investment is set to expand from the mining industry to agriculture as overseas investors pour billions of dollars into Australian rural properties considered by some to be strategic national assets.
UAE food processing and poultry group Iffco has justifiably ruffled some feathers in Australia. Earlier this year, Iffco acquired a 14.99 per cent stake in Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) from Futuris Corporation for AU$64.7 million (Dh171.6m). AAC is the largest beef cattle company in Australia, running around 500,000 beef cattle on 21 cattle stations comprising 8.2 million hectares.
Agriculture Minister Terry Redman says Western Australia should embrace moves by Arab interests in the Middle East to buy prime Wheatbelt farmland to secure their future food supplies. Two groups from the Middle East are due to visit the State early next year as they consider investments of up to $1 billion in cropping, sheep and dairy production in WA.
"They're not talking about $2 or $3 million, they're talking about $20 million to up to $1 billion of investment in big projects," Peter Metcalfe, the director of grain industry development for Western Australia, said in an interview.