An Australian probe into foreign ownership of the nation’s $31 billion farm sector has put food security back on the political agenda, with the Greens party calling for curbs on foreign control of agricultural production.
The government took foreign investors by surprise, announcing a national audit of foreign ownership of farms and food production businesses, saying it wanted to get to the truth behind public concerns about rising foreign ownership.
The influential Greens party, whose support is crucial to the minority government’s survival, has welcomed the audit and called on the government to develop a “food sovereignty” policy to resist a trend toward foreign control of farmland and water.
“There are clear moves by some countries to secure their own food supplies by buying up land and water in other countries, bypassing trade altogether in favour of a simple outsourcing arrangement,” Greens Senator Christine Milne said.
“Australia has a key role to play in the region as a source of good quality food and we must avoid this trend.”
The National Farmer’s Federation also welcomed the audit, echoing the call for Australia to have security over its own farm sector, but it acknowledged that foreign capital was important for development of rural industries.