Greater China beats UK as biggest owner of farmland in Australia


SYDNEY • Greater China now ranks as the top foreign owner of Australian agricultural land, overtaking the UK, according to a government report.

The jump in Chinese-linked holdings comes via Hong Kong, with interests based there owning 1.3 million ha as of June 30, an increase of more than fourfold in a year. China-only ownership was flat at 9.2 million ha.

While the UK remains the largest single foreign holder, with 10.2 million ha — 2.6% of total farm land — China and Hong Kong together have 10.4 million ha. The other big increase came from Bahamas-linked groups, which now have interests in about 2.2 million ha, compared to a very small amount a year earlier.

The government established the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land in 2015 after calls for greater transparency. The definition of “foreign person” includes entities with foreign ownership of at least 20%.

Total foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land stands at 13.4%, compared to 13.6% a year earlier. Total area of farmland with a level of foreign ownership rose to 52.6 million ha as of June 30 from 50.5 million ha a year before.

There’s been an increase in the use of foreign held land for crops and horticulture.

More than 92% of foreign- owned land is held within Australian incorporated entities. Around 80% is held on a leasehold basis.