Australian agricultural land with a level (at least 20 per cent) of foreign ownership was 13.8pc, as at June 30, 2020. Graphics: Australian Taxation Office.
According to a report by the Australian Taxation Office, China is the biggest offshore holder of Australian farmland in 2019-20 with 9.2 million hectares – 8.4 million hectares of which was leased – followed by the UK (7.3 million hectares), the Netherlands (2.8 million hectares), the US (2.75 million hectares), Canada (2.61 million hectares).
Dutch, US and Canadian interests all also increased their Australian agricultural property investments in the past year, whereas those from the UK divested some farmland.
The Australian Taxation Office wrote that overall foreign investment of Australian farmland has increased by 1.7pc over the 12 months to June 30, 2020.
The number of agricultural foreign-held properties also increased by 9.4pc compared to 2019 to 853.
This data has put the total of Australian farmland with foreign interest of at least 20pc to be 53,026,000ha, or 13.8pc of all Australian farmland.
Over the past five years, foreign ownership of Australian farmland has been on a slow increase, with 13.6pc or 52,147,000ha in 2015/16.
Foreign held agricultural land by State and Territory (net change compared to the previous year).
Each State experienced an increase in foreign investment, with Tasmania being the highest at 7.3pc.
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory had the second largest increase, with 4pc, followed by Victoria with 3.4pc, the Northern Territory with 2.9pc and Queensland with 1.5pc.
Overseas investment in Australia rose by 0.7pc and South Australia had the lowest increase with 0.1pc.
In total Tasmania has the largest presence of foreign held land out of all States, with 26.2pc.
In a close second is the NT at 25.8pc, followed by WA with 17pc of the respective State’s farmland being foreign owned.
However on an area basis, Queensland has the largest proportion of overseas agricultural land investment at 14,490,000ha followed by the NT with 14,307,000ha and WA with 13,054,000ha.
All States had an increase in the number of properties under foreign ownership, with NSW and ACT recording the most with 2450 properties.
WA had the fifth highest (third lowest) number of overseas owned agricultural properties.
Looking at the type of land use to the previous year, the most significant change was to cropping land, which saw an 8.8pc increase.
More than 85pc of foreign held farmland is utilised for livestock enterprises, which saw a 1.6pc increase.
WA is no exception to this, a 12,068,000ha or 86pc share of the State’s foreign held land was used for livestock production.
However, the largest proportion of foreign investment in livestock land was in the NT, then Queensland and WA.
Cropping land comprised 1,936,000ha, with the most being in NSW and ACT (694,000ha) and WA (684,000ha).
Cropping land made up 4.9pc of WA’s foreign owned farmland.
There was a 2.6pc drop in horticulture land across the country.
WA had the highest percentage of foreign held horticulture land of 105,000ha or 35.7pc out of the country.
Horticulture represented just 0.7pc of WA’s overseas agricultural land investments.
Overseas ownership in Australian forestry was most prominent in Victoria, followed by Queensland and Tasmania.
In the past three years cropping land has appealed the most to foreign investors, with ownership for that type of land increasing by 8.8pc, whereas grazing land has remained rather constant at 1.6pc, although it dipped considerably in 2018/19.
Freehold and leasehold:
The majority (83pc) of foreign owned farmland is on a leasehold basis, which increased by 1pc to 44,990,000ha.
Of the freehold land held by foreigners, the Australian share dropped by 7.3 in the 12 months prior to June 30, 2020.
On the other hand, the foreign share of Australian foreign held freehold farmland increased by 7.5pc over the same time period.
It was a similar scenario for leasehold land, but to a lesser extent.
The Australia owned proportion of overseas held leasehold land declined by 0.4pc, whereas the foreign share increased by 1.5pc.
Although the majority of overseas foreign investment in agricultural land is leasehold, the report suggests freehold is increasing, albeit slowly.
NOTE: The register records foreign person entities who have a foreign ownership share of at least 20pc or more, therefore there may also be a significant portion of Australian ownership in those same parcels of land.