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First glance at Foreign Owned Agricultural Land Register

The Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land, instigated last year by our very own Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, is providing unparalleled transparency when it comes to who owns what agricultural land in Australia. Last week, the first real comprehensive picture of foreign ownership in Australia has been released in the Register's first formal report. 

The first report shows foreign investment in farms has continued to rise but that Australians still own more than 85 per cent of total agricultural land mass.  While China last year became the largest source of new proposed acquisitions, it was coming from a low base. Despite common belief, Chinese holdings are actually below 1 per cent of all land and comparable to holdings owned by investors from Switzerland and the Philippines. UK investors, however, own 27.5 million hectares, equating to 52 percent of all foreign-owned land, while US investors hold about seven million hectares.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administers the Agricultural Land Register and receives information directly from local and foreign investors. All foreign investors with an interest in agricultural land are required to register that interest, regardless of the land's value. The ATO also matches land titles, immigration and other third-party data sources to identify foreign investors who may not yet have recorded their land on the Register.

The annual reports from the Land Register will give us more accurate data when it comes to foreign land ownership, thereby stimulating a more informed public discussion than before. 

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