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Food report says foreign investment here to stay

The government says it welcomes foreign investment in Australian farming land. Photo: Louise Kennerley
The Age | July 18, 2012

Food report says foreign investment here to stay

Richard Willingham

Richard Willingham is regional affairs correspondent

CONTROVERSIAL foreign investment in Australian farming land is here to stay and is vitally important to the future of food security, the federal government says.

The government has launched a green paper, the National Food Plan, to help shape food policy, covering trade, agricultural development, food security and land use for the coming decades.

Despite concern over foreign investment in farming, the government says it welcomes foreign investment, saying it plays an important role in maximising food production.

''Any reduction in foreign investment in the agricultural sector would likely result in lower food production, with potentially higher food prices, lower employment, lower incomes in the sector and lower government revenue,'' the paper says.

Demand for food is forecast to rise 77 per cent in 2050, on 2007 levels, and the paper predicts a coming boom, when the world's middle class is predicted to increase to 4.9 billion by 2030, with 85 per cent of the growth in Asia, presenting a huge opportunity for Australia.

The paper also outlines the challenge of finding a workable balance between farming and coal seam gas mining, and mining in general.

A forum between suppliers and supermarkets to improve relationships is called for, with concerns over the supermarket giants' dominance and impact on prices and food processing in Australia.

The report found Australia has a high level of food security but to ensure it gets the most out of the land, and opportunities presented overseas, there needs to be a discussion on how to best increase and target research and development funding.

Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb said: ''It's hard to get excited about a government announcement that's simply to talk about talking about agriculture and food security.''

With Mark Metherell

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