GrainCorp pushes global outlook

It is "fantasy" to think Australia can insulate itself from more foreign investment in agriculture, GrainCorp has warned.

It is "fantasy" to think Australia can insulate itself from more foreign investment in agriculture, GrainCorp has warned.

Chief executive Alison Watkins said foreign investment was essential because Australia's population was not big enough to provide the capital needed to keep upgrading infrastructure in the grains sector.

The industry also needed access to global markets because Australia produced far more than it could consume.

The government is considering whether to approve a $3.4 billion takeover of GrainCorp by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) of the US.

Tension is rising within the Coalition over the bid.

The Nationals, like their farmer constituency, fear a foreign takeover of the grain marketer will exacerbate existing concerns about the supply chain and port access. They say Treasurer Joe Hockey should reject ADM's bid.

Speaking at a farming conference, Ms Watkins said the agriculture sector had already undergone enormous change to become more efficient, competitive and innovative, and was on the cusp of its greatest era of opportunity in the face of growing world demand for food and fibre.

"There are some industry observers who yearn for a return to more insulation from global dynamics for us to turn back inward," Ms Watkins said. "But it is pure fantasy to think it would somehow be worthwhile or even possible to pause or turn our backs on the process of globalisation that has delivered us such success."

She said ADM's offer for GrainCorp reflected a large and very meaningful vote of confidence in Australia's agriculture industry. "Here is a company that is so confident about our product, capability and future that wants to invest billions of dollars here," she said.

"It's as good an indicator as any that our industry is globally respected and has huge opportunities open to it around the world."

Ms Watkins said Australian grain growers now had many more options on how they could store or sell their crop, and to whom they could sell it.

In GrainCorp's catchment, up to half the crop bypassed the company's export supply chain.

-The Bega Cheese board met on Thursday but is yet to decide on whether to raise its offer for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, which is the target of a three-way takeover battle.

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