How one quarter of the farmland in some states is foreign owned - and China holds by far the most
By CHARLIE COË FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA
Foreign ownership of farmland in some states has surged to as high as 25 per cent as China maintains its position as Australia's most powerful foreign investor.
Overseas investment has soared on the east coast with foreign holdings now owning 26.2 per cent of farmland in Tasmania, according to new Australian Taxation Office data.
The proportion of foreign-owned agricultural land in the Northern Territory has also reached 25 per cent, with WA coming in third at 17 per cent.
Foreign holdings increased by 3.4 per cent in Victoria and four per cent in New South Wales and the ACT - where more than 2.6million hectares of agricultural land is owned by an overseas company.
US investors bought the most Australian farmland in the year to June 30 but Chinese companies now own 9.2million hectares - the most out of any foreign nation.
British investors are the second most powerful owners in Australian agriculture with holdings equal to 8.17million hectares.
The report comes amid a worsening trade war between China and Australia as the Asian superpower slaps increasingly punitive tariffs on Aussie produce.
Last month, Beijing blocked Australian exports including coal and seafood before slapping a 212 per cent tariff on Aussie wine, effectively banning the product.
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra has also released a dossier of 14 grievances including claims Australia is 'siding with the US', interfering in its affairs in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Rural property expert Col Medway said farmland was a prized asset for foreign buyers and allowed them to double their investment every 10 years.
'It’s a very good return in this low-yielding environment we are currently experiencing,' he told The Australian.
'On top of that you've got the rent they receive. Some of these investors are not active - they own the land and rent it to an operator.'
In June, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced foreign investment laws in Australia would be completely overhauled to protect the country's national security.
From January 1 next year any foreign bid deemed to be from a 'sensitive national security business' will be vetted by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Previously, bids from private investors were only vetted if the asset was worth more than $275million.
Mr Frydenberg said industries deemed 'sensitive' would include energy, telecommunications, utilities, defence and security.
'These are the most significant reforms in nearly 50 years and we hope of getting bipartisan support for them,' Mr Frydenberg said.
Under the new system, the thresholds will remain the same for foreign bids for non-sensitive businesses.
The treasurer will also gain powers to force a foreign owner to sell if national security concerns arise.