Farmers support foreign investment register

Farmers support foreign investment register

Date Published: 11th May 2012

By Bobbie Hinkley, Published in Farm Weekly. Read the full story here.

CORPORATE Agriculture Australia managing director Gordon Verrall believes WA farmers have nothing to worry about in regards to foreign investment.

Corporate Agriculture Australia is a management company which specialises in the sourcing and the full management of Australian farm properties for overseas and national corporate clients.

Mr Verall believes foreign companies investing in WA farmland will continue to operate "under the radar" just like any local farmer who takes on new land.

Mr Verrall disputed that there had been more foreign investment in WA farmland in recent years than ever before and suggested a fresh and "coincidental" spate of land settlements (including recent purchases at Jerramungup, Bindi Bindi and Esperance by a Qatar-based company's local arm Hassad Australia) had contributed significantly to local hype surrounding internationally-based purchases.

He said new purchases by the Malaysia Group at Northampton and the "ongoing rumour mill" of Chinese activity in the Great Southern also had local and well-established growers talking.

"There won't be too many big projects like we've just seen from Hassad in the future," Mr Verrall said.

"Most foreign investment will be by individual investors or smaller groups interested in picking up a farm or two.

"I don't know how much WA farmland falls under the corporate agriculture or foreign investment banner because that information isn't really there."

In terms of establishing a public register to keep track of who is buying and selling, Mr Verrall said he understood farmers calling for a register for foreign ownership.

He recognised it would be beneficial and said because there were a large number of scaremongers within the industry the current lack of statistical support to demonstrate how little land was actually owned by overseas investors meant those scaremongers got some unjustified credence.

Though whole-heartedly in support of foreign investment, when asked about the pros and cons of the process Mr Verrall was also sympathetic towards those farmers who had legitimate concerns about the possibility of profit being driven offshore and the bypassing of WA logistical chains.

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