Australia 'struggling to compete'

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig says latest figure prove that Australia has not "sold the farm" to overseas interests.

The minister's comments follow those from Hassad Australia chief Tom McKeon who described foreign dollars as a tonic for Australia's cash-strapped farm industry.

Hassad Australia is the local arm of its Qatari government-owned parent firm, which now owns 11 properties across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

In total, Hassad's portfolio adds up to 200,000 hectares of growing and pastoral land, which produce for both domestic and international markets.

Mr McKeon said Australia was struggling to compete in global markets.

He said foreign funds would encourage jobs, innovation and feed more of the world.

The company also has an apparent focus on buying locally and employing those who live close to their farms.

"One of the biggest challenges facing the agriculture sector is employment, particularly attracting and retaining young people to the industry," Mr McKeon said.

"Increased investment, including foreign investment, is critical in addressing this challenge."
Minister Ludwig agreed, saying government research found 99% of agribusiness in Australia was still locally owned.

"This means the levels of foreign investment in the agricultural sector have remained relatively stable for the last 30 years," he said.

"Australia has not sold the farm and there is no risk to Australia's food security."

Hassad spent more than $500 million investing in Australian properties since November 2009, as Qatar worked to ensure its access to food production.

Its investments, no matter what size or scale, are investigated by the Foreign Investment Review Board because Hassad's only investor is a foreign government.

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