China to lift rural investment

The local head of HSBC Bank is predicting significant growth in Chinese investment in Australian agriculture, as Asia’s powerhouse economy steps up its expansion into strategic industries beyond mining.

The local head of HSBC Bank is predicting significant growth in Chinese investment in Australian agriculture, as Asia’s powerhouse economy steps up its expansion into strategic industries beyond mining.

With the federal government forecasting a 45 per cent lift in food-related exports by 2025, mainly into Asian markets, investors from the region are tipped to play a growing role in Australia’s farming sector.

HSBC Australia’s chief executive, Tony Cripps, said China would be an especially important source of funding due to its sheer size, and because it viewed Australia as a safe and reliable food supplier.

‘‘China in particular, but Asia in general, sees Australia as a secure place to get access to food because it’s got a clean reputation, like New Zealand,’’ Mr Cripps said in an interview.

‘‘So in my visits and conversations to Chinese customers in Australia, there is an increasing interest in that sector because of the known growth profile of the demand for food in Asia.’’

The comments come after foreign ownership in farming became a hot-button political issue last year, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promising to slash the threshold at which agriculture investments are assessed by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Latest available figures from 2011 showed 45 million hectares – 11 per cent of Australia’s farming land – was at least partly foreign-owned, and this is tipped to increase as overseas investment expands.

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