Rural round-up

September 9, 2015

Bright Foods tipped as Silver Fern bidder – Fran O’Sullivan:

Chinese Government backed Bright Food is understood to be the party which has been in negotiations with Silver Fern to take a stake in the NZ meat company.

Bright is a wholly Government-owned State Owned Enterprise.

But the negotiating vehicle is understood to one of Bright’s four listed subsidiaries. One of those subsidiaries – Bright Dairy & Food – took a majority stake in Canterbury milk processor Synlait Milk for $82 million in 2010.

Late last week speculation suggested the proposed deal would be announced today by Silver Fern Farms. . .

Waikato farmer wearing undies and gumboots chases burgler – Florence Kerr:

An attempted robbery was thwarted by an angry Waikato farmer who chased down the not-so-clever burglars wearing his undies and his gumboots.

Fed-up with continued thefts from his and neighbouring farms, Ohaupo farmer Arnold Reekers was forced into action in the early hours of Sunday morning when he heard his quad bike beeping as the thieves attempted to hot-wire the vehicle.

And despite having a knife pulled on him by the would-be thieves, Reekers wouldn’t hesitate to do it again saying continued thefts would drive farmers to take up arms despite pleas from the police for people not to take matters into their own hands.  . . 

Agility to drive value – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra chairman John Wilson has hit back at repeated criticism the huge co-operative has lost its way or not delivered on the promise it once held.

“I do sense the frustration of farmers with critics who come out of their holes when global milk prices are low,” he said ahead of the annual results release on September 24.

Wilson is one of three farmer-directors who retire by rotation this year to face the farmers’ vote in October. . .

New Zealand sheepmeat – maximising the cut:

Softer overseas demand for New Zealand sheepmeat – particularly out of China – which has curtailed New Zealand sheepmeat producers’ returns in recent months, has largely been driven by decline in demand for the forequarter portion of the carcase, says agribusiness specialist Rabobank in a recently-released report.

The report, New Zealand Sheepmeat: Maximising the Cut – Breaking It All Down, says it is important for producers to understand the breakdown of the animal and market demand for specific products as it ultimately determines the farmgate price. 

“While farmers are paid on a per head or per kilogramme basis, the price they receive is calculated from the summation of all the products derived from the animal – from the extensive array of cuts, to the offal, co-products, skin and wool,” says report author and animal protein analyst, Matthew Costello. . .

 

Foreign investment decisions could be fast-tracked – Brook Sabin:

The Government is considering speeding up foreign investment decisions, but Finance Minister Bill English is giving a cast-iron guarantee the rules won’t be watered down.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) considers whether to approve high-value and sensitive land investments from overseas buyers. It then makes a recommendation to the Government, which ultimately decides whether the sale can proceed.

The most high-profile sale currently before the OIO is the 14,000ha Lochinver Station, which China’s Shanghai Pengxin wants to buy. The application has been held up for more than a year, but the Government is finally close to deciding whether it will go ahead. . .

Investment reduces AsureQuality profit:

AsureQuality posted a 9% drop in 2015 annual profit and expects a further decline in 2016 as the state-owned food safety company steps up investment for future growth.

Profit fell to $11.4 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from $12.5m a year earlier, the Auckland-based state-owned enterprise said in a statement posted on the Treasury website. It expects profit to decline further to $10.6m in 2016 before increasing to $12m in 2017, according to its 2015-2018 statement of corporate intent. . .

Organic farming is actually worse for climate change than conventional farming –  Deena Shanker:

Organic food is booming right now, as more and more people choose what they perceive to be healthier, more environmentally friendly food.

But a new study published in the June issue of Agriculture and Human Values suggests that organic farming, as it currently stands, is not as sustainable as it could be, and when done on a large scale, even produces more greenhouse gases (“GHGs” are heat-trapping compounds that contribute to climate change) than its conventional counterpart.

To determine the difference in emissions of organic agriculture versus conventional, University of Oregon researcher Julius McGee used state-level data, available through the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, that showed agricultural GHG emissions from 49 states from 2000 to 2008. . .  Hat tip: Utopia

Biofilms in the Dairy Industry:

Recent high-profile contamination scares within the international food industry have highlighted the need for best practice when it comes to dairy manufacturing. After 15 years of research into dairy biofilms, there is now a cornerstone publication for a better understanding of the current science, and ways to reduce the occurrence of biofilms associated with dairy manufacturing.

Biofilms in the Dairy Industry provides a comprehensive overview of biofilm-related issues currently facing the New Zealand and international dairy sector. . . 


Chinese-NZ partnership wins

May 9, 2015

The company which bought the former Crafar farms has won an award for turning the business around using New Zealand management, labour and skills.

Milk New Zealand, owned by Shanghai Pengxin, was last night named supreme winner at the 2015 HSBC New Zealand China Trade Association Business Awards in Auckland.

Shanghai Pengxin bought Crafar Farms in 2012 for more than $200 million.

Gary Romano, chief executive of Pengxin International, said the award was recognition for how they had run the farms.

Shanghai Pengxin’s purchase of the farms was controversial – but Mr Romano believed it had been good for New Zealand.

“Look, as a New Zealander, I did think to myself, am I doing something that’s good for New Zealand as well as my company?

“After speaking to a number of economists and thinking clearly through this I’ve come to the view that there is absolutely no downside to foreign investment.

“I think some of the things that the Overseas Investment Office does are very correct.

“So, things like making sure there’s been no money laundering, the right amount of taxes have been paid, people of good character, and that we’ve paid a fair price for the assets in a contestable process – all those things are very, very useful for New Zealand.”

He said once those tests had been passed, such investment provided oxygen for the economy. . .

The combination of foreign investment and local skills has been a winning one which shows the benefits that can result from allowing overseas ownership of some land.


We’ve grown

August 9, 2014

Foreign investment is an issue which bubbles away in the background with the occasional boil over, usually based on emotion not facts.

This week’s fuss over the sale of Lochinver Station is a prime example.

The rules for foreign investment were already tight and National tightened them further.

Foreign buyers of sensitive land must convince the Overseas Investment Office they can meet strict criteria – including delivering greater economic, environmental and social benefits than a local buyer would.

This isn’t just a matter of ticking boxes.

A friend manages farms owned by a foreign company and he says they are strictly monitored to ensure they are doing what they said they’d do.

This isn’t good enough for politicians who sense an opportunity to grab a headline and garner votes.

The concern is that if emotion rules, New Zealand and New Zealanders will be poorer.

Foreign investment brings benefits as John Roughan points out:

Foreign investment seems to have done us no harm. In fact we would be a smaller, meaner, more worried place without it. We’ve grown.

Prime Minister John Key has said if there’s a run on our land the government will act.

There is a need for a discussion on what would constitute a run and the total area of foreign ownership we should allow.

But that should be based on reason not emotion.

Foreign investment has helped us grow and poor policy based on  political opportunism by politicians desperate for attention could threaten future growth.

We’ve grown and we need some foreign investment to ensure we keep growing.


Labour tries to out-Winston Winston

August 5, 2014

Labour has forgotten that is trying to out Winston-Winston Peters on sales of land to foreigners:

The next Labour Government will keep rural and residential land in Kiwi hands, Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Parker says.

“New Zealanders are sick of seeing their farms and homes sold to overseas buyers with the profits and opportunities going offshore. No overseas person has the right to buy our land.

The opportunities stay here where the land is, so do the jobs which go with it.

The profit is only what’s left after costs – including the purchase price, wages, repairs and maintenance, development and tax – are paid.

A friend is New Zealand manager for overseas investors who own several farms. That company reinvests all its profit in the farms and adds more money from other investments elsewhere for development which includes a very expensive experiment with organic farming.

Their money is making the farms better and they are putting far more into the country than they are taking out.

“In all but the rarest of cases, sales of rural land to overseas buyers will be banned. Non-resident investors will also be banned from buying existing Kiwi homes.

What will those rarest cases be and who will decide?

“Changing who owns what already exists does nothing to increase New Zealand’s output. It just sells off New Zealand’s profit stream and kills off the Kiwi dream of owning our farms and homes.

It could increase New Zealand’s output if the investment improved production.

“Labour will reverse the current approach so that overseas buyers of rural land will have to prove they will create more jobs and exports than any New Zealand investor. Given New Zealanders are among the best farmers in the world it is an extremely hard hurdle to get over.

The hurdles overseas must leap are already very high and include the creation of jobs.  Among other conditions local buyers don’t have to meet but foreigners do is allowing public access.

New Zealand farmers are very good but they often lack the capital to be even better.

“This will ensure our farms are not priced out of the reach of New Zealanders.

If that is the case it would also mean the vendor gets less to invest elsewhere.

“We will also limit the discretion of the minister to ignore recommendations from the Overseas Investment Office.

“Labour will also restrict sales of residential homes to any non-residents unless they intend to move here, helping to keep the Kiwi home ownership dream alive, especially for young New Zealanders currently locked out of the housing market.

“The National Government is ignoring the legitimate concerns of New Zealanders about New Zealand land and houses being sold to overseas interests.

These concerns are largely based on emotion rather than facts.

A very small proportion of farm land is owned by foreigners and the problems with housing are largely a result of planning restricting the supply in Auckland and the earthquakes in Christchurch.

“Instead of accusing New Zealanders of being xenophobic, John Key and Steven Joyce should respect New Zealanders’ desire to keep New Zealand land in New Zealand hands,” David Parker says.

The accusation of xenophobia is because the protest is loud when it is a Chinese buyer and quiet to non-existent when it is from other countries like the USA, Britain, Australia or Germany.

Wee parties can get away with outrageous policies because they can always use the excuse they didn’t have the numbers to get them enacted.

The bigger parties are usually more circumspect.

Labour has forgotten this in trying to out Winston Winston Peters with this dog-whistle to the xenophobic.

It is also ignoring the benefits from the sale:

Stevenson Group, the concrete, quarrying and engineering firm that owns Lochinver Station, ran an extensive tender before agreeing to sell the 13,843 hectare farm to Shanghai Pengxin and says it will reinvest the funds in other businesses. . .

 The Stevenson family has owned Lochinver for 60 years but started as a drain-laying business in 1912, expanding into quarrying and construction in the late 1930s, and making concrete blocks from 1946. The original 5,260 ha Lochinver farm was acquired in 1958 and the family expanded to 16,595 ha “breaking the wild country into farming land” with “an enormous amount of hard work.”

“Farming is not the core business of Stevenson Group,” chief executive Mark Franklin told BusinessDesk. The company is freeing up capital to invest in other businesses such as expanding its Drury quarry, he said.

Franklin said the company had “really intensive discussions with lots of people both domestically and internationally. You can be very clear, anyone who was interested, I have spoken to.”

While Lochinver has a rateable value of more than $70 million, the purchase price hasn’t been disclosed. Still, Franklin said Pengxin’s offer wasn’t necessarily the highest on price alone and his company had considered a range of factors including retention of workers and the future of the property. Lochinver was more a farm enterprise than a farm. “In New Zealand a lot of people own farms but this is part of a supply chain.”

He said Pengxin had a long-term strategy to build a vertically integrated business.

The value in the property was “in its ability to grow a lot of grass,” which made it attractive for both dairy support and wintering stock, he said. Sheep farming was likely to remain a core part of the business. . .

The owner gets a large amount of money to invest in its core business, the new owner will bring money into the country, spend more on running and improving the property which will require employing locals and using local goods and services.

Federated Farmers which supports foreign investment in general has some concerns over the sale of Lochinver.

While Federated Farmers supports positive overseas investment into New Zealand’s farming system, it is concerned the potential sale of Lochinver Station to Shanghai Pengxin Group Co. Limited, may not provide sufficient benefit to New Zealand.

“Since there is no requirement to publicly notify applications to the Overseas Investment Office, Federated Farmers is frankly uneasy about the potential sale of Lochinver Station to Shanghai Pengxin,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers President.

“New Zealand absolutely needs foreign investment but it has to be of benefit to the local and national economy. 

“That is why a ‘substantial and identifiable benefit’ test was incorporated into the overseas investment decision tree, further bolstered in 2012 by a High Court decision adding a “with and without” counterfactual test. 

“This was to ensure any investment, such as the one being proposed, has benefit over and above just making a farm work better.  Since Lochinver Station is highly regarded in farming circles there must be something very special and we are keen to know what that is. . .

He might be reassured by a speech Prime Minister John Key made to Federated Farmers in 2010:

. . . I want to take this opportunity to outline the Government’s position on overseas investment and talk about the changes we are making to the approvals regime.

In summary, we recognise the huge contribution that overseas investment makes to Kiwi jobs and Kiwi incomes.

New Zealand benefits from openness, both in trade and in investment.

However, New Zealanders have legitimate concerns about some aspects of overseas investment, particularly when it comes to land.

I share those concerns.

Good policy is a matter of striking the right balance.

We have reviewed the rules around overseas investment. For the most part, we think those rules are appropriate and the overall legislation is sound.

However, we have made a few adjustments to the approvals regime and given ministers increased flexibility to consider a wider range of issues when assessing proposed investments. . .

What I want to say first is that you, as individual farmers, and as members of Federated Farmers, have been right in the middle of recent debates about overseas investment, because a lot of those debates have been about land.

I’m sure that between you, you have some strong views and quite possibly some mixed views about overseas investment.

Unfortunately, much of the debate in recent months has been stirred up by politicians who are more concerned about getting on the news than they are about well-thought-out policy.

We are likely to see more of this tub-thumping and political posturing in the lead-up to next year’s election.

Politicians who were unwavering advocates of trade and investment when they were in government have somehow turned into defenders of Fortress New Zealand while in opposition.

Their views appear to have changed 180 degrees, for the sake of politics.

That is a shame, because at stake here are New Zealand jobs, New Zealand incomes, and New Zealand futures.

The reason we allow investment to flow between countries – both into New Zealand and out of New Zealand – is because it benefits New Zealanders.

We don’t do it for any other reason – we do it because we benefit from it.

In particular, overseas investment in New Zealand creates jobs, boosts incomes, and helps the economy grow.

Overseas capital can make things happen here that wouldn’t otherwise happen, grow businesses that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to grow, create jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist, and pay wages that are higher than they would otherwise be.

Overseas capital makes New Zealand a vastly more productive country.

So there is absolutely no way we could enjoy the standard of living we do without overseas investment.

And part of that standard of living is being able to afford the education, law and order, and health services that our families want.

A recent study concluded that overseas investment in New Zealand lifted national income by around $5 billion between 1996 and 2006. That is an estimate of the return to New Zealand from overseas investment, over and above the cost of paying interest and dividends on that investment. . . .

He gave examples from the wine industry.

Since the year 2000 the number of wineries in New Zealand has almost doubled, and the industry directly employs 6,000 people.

This expansion of the wine industry into one of our most important export industries has largely happened because of overseas investment.

That investment has not just been into big producers, like Montana, but smaller wineries like Craggy Range, Sacred Hill, Dry River and Te Awa.

Overseas investment has allowed the industry to grow exponentially, and also develop from being a small and family-based sector into a more capital-intensive and technologically-advanced industry with real global connections.

Overseas investment also plays a positive role in New Zealand agribusiness, providing a vital source of capital for ongoing expansion and growth. PGG Wrightson, Synlait, CRV Ambreed and Anzco are good examples of such investment. . .

He also pointed out investment is a two-way street.

New Zealand businesses and individuals are themselves investing abroad.

There has been considerable investment, for example, by New Zealand dairy farmers in overseas farms. Fonterra, of course, has processing facilities in a number of different countries.

A free flow of investment also allows New Zealanders to diversify their savings across different countries and different industries. Most of the savings that are in the Super Fund, for example, and in many KiwiSaver funds, are invested overseas.

In fact, the total amount of equity investment into and out of New Zealand is surprisingly balanced. According to the latest figures, New Zealanders have around $53 billion of equity invested abroad while overseas investors have $61 billion of equity in New Zealand.

So international flows of investment – both into and out of New Zealand – are very important for our standard of living. . .

Then he addressed concerns about foreign investment:

I’m sure most people have these concerns from time to time, because as New Zealanders we have a very real and very profound sense of attachment to the land.

For one thing, our economy is based on agriculture so we recognise and respect that the land has an important economic value.

We also have a strong tradition of aspiring to own land – our own house, section, lifestyle block, farm, or block of native bush. We are not entirely comfortable as tenants – we want to put our roots down and call some place our own.

We also value outdoor pursuits – tramping, hunting, fishing, camping and picnicking – and even when we don’t do those activities, we like the fact that we could if we wanted to.

Our tourism marketing is very focused on New Zealand’s natural beauty, and we’re proud of it.

I have recently said myself that we don’t want to end up in a position where New Zealanders are tenants in their own country.

So I think the fact that people are concerned with overseas ownership is perfectly legitimate.

But we should be careful not to let those concerns get out of hand.

For a start, about a third of New Zealand – including our most iconic land – is protected by being in the conservation estate. So no-one from overseas can come in and buy Mt Taranaki or the Franz Josef Glacier, for example.

Second, it is a simple fact that land can’t change nationality. People can change nationality, of course, and factories can be relocated overseas. But a piece of land in New Zealand will always be here in New Zealand.

Because it will always be here, the use of that land will always be subject to New Zealand laws and regulations. And ultimately we as New Zealanders get to determine what those laws and regulations will be.

Third, and contrary to what some people might think, there hasn’t been an acceleration of overseas sales in recent years.

In fact, as at a couple of days ago, only 11, 203 hectares of land has been sold so far this year. That is certainly well below the peak of 380,000 hectares that were sold in 2006.

Fourth, the issue of whether businesses and properties are owned by New Zealanders or people from overseas, is for the most part, squarely in our own hands.

What I mean is that no-one can be forced to sell their business to an overseas investor, just as no farmers can be compelled to sell their land to foreigners.

Obviously with mortgagee sales or receiverships things get a little more complicated but, in general, people who feel very strongly that New Zealand-based assets should remain in New Zealand hands are free to sell only to New Zealanders.

The problem is that it’s people who don’t own the land who are complaining and wanting to dictate to whom the owners can sell.

Moreover, New Zealanders can always buy land and other assets back. What makes that difficult isn’t the rules around overseas investment, it is the fact that New Zealand has a poor savings record and therefore a relatively small stock of capital available for investment.

If, as a country, we saved more, we would own more of the assets in New Zealand, including land, as well as being less in debt to overseas lenders.

Finally, there are specific safeguards contained in the Overseas Investment Act and in the regulations which the government makes under that Act.

Over the past year or so the Government has been reviewing this system of rules, to make sure we have got the balance right between three key objectives:

welcoming desirable investment, in recognition of the benefits it brings for New Zealanders

providing a stable investment environment, where the rules are settled and everyone is clear about what they are; and

addressing public concerns about overseas investment, particularly in regard to land.

This review has come to three conclusions.

The first conclusion is that the Overseas Investment Act is a fundamentally sound piece of legislation.

The Act makes it clear that it is a privilege for overseas people to own or control sensitive New Zealand assets.

In particular, it lays out that foreign investment in land is only acceptable if it substantially benefits New Zealand, according to a range of factors which include, among other things:

  • the creation of new job opportunities in New Zealand
  • the introduction into New Zealand of new technology
  • increased export receipts for New Zealand exporters
  • the introduction into New Zealand of additional investment for development purposes
  • increased processing in New Zealand of New Zealand’s primary products
  • protection of native bush and other indigenous vegetation; and
  • protection of game species and walking access.
  • In addition, farm land has to be offered on the open market so that New Zealanders can bid for it as well.

These are very stringent criteria.

In fact, these are the very same criteria that Phil Goff was trying to pass off as brand new policy a few weeks ago. I welcome his endorsement of the current provisions of the Overseas Investment Act which, of course, was passed by his government back in 2005. . .

The third conclusion we came to was that a couple of additions should be made to the existing rules.

These additions would make sure that all public concerns about overseas investment, both now and in the future, could be covered off under the rules.

So the Government is adding two more factors that ministers must consider when they assess the benefits of a proposed overseas investment in New Zealand land.

The first new factor is very wide-ranging and looks at whether New Zealand’s economic interests will be adequately promoted by overseas investment.

This will allow ministers to consider, for example, whether any of our key exports are in danger of being controlled by an overseas entity, or whether there are non-commercial motivations driving a proposed overseas investment.

The second new factor is a “mitigating factor” which looks at whether the investor has a meaningful commitment to New Zealand involvement in the running or oversight of the investment.

That could include, for example, part ownership with New Zealanders, appointing New Zealanders to the board, or listing on a New Zealand exchange.

These two new factors will be weighed up alongside all the existing factors when ministers consider applications for investment.

We are also going to outline the Government’s policy on foreign investment more clearly by amending the Directive Letter issued to the Overseas Investment Office.

This will make things clearer for both the Office and for overseas investors.

So in conclusion can I stress that we allow overseas investment to flow between countries – both into New Zealand and out of New Zealand – because it benefits New Zealanders.

With the appropriate checks and balances in place, this investment is good for jobs, wages and growth.

After reviewing the overseas investment regime, and making some amendments to it, the Government is satisfied that we do now have the appropriate checks and balances. . .

National strengthened those checks and balances.

Foreign investors must jump very high hurdles and if they don’t meet the conditions imposed on them by the OIO – conditions which are strictly monitored – they cannot keep the property.

The Overseas Investment Office has yet to make its decision on the sale of Lochinver.

If it does approve the deal, the strict criteria it must apply, made stricter by National, will ensure that the benefits to New Zealand are greater than any which would come from the sale to a New Zealander.


Pengxin posts operating loss on NZ farms

December 1, 2013

Pengxin Group which bought the Crafar farms last year reported an operating loss in their first year.

Pengxin New Zealand Farm Management reported an operating loss of $1 million in the year ended June 30 on revenue of $10.5 million, according to its first annual report to the Overseas Investment Office. The farming operation, managed by state-owned enterprise Landcorp, was hit by the drought within six weeks of Pengxin purchasing the land, sapping milk production and driving up costs to buy additional feed.

“The critical focus for Pengxin and Landcorp was to manage the welfare of all animals on the property, and protect the farming position for the subsequent season,” the report said. . .

Will the xenophobes who complain about profits from foreign-owned businesses go overseas be just as concerned that the loss has been sustained by foreigners?


NZ First needs a headline

November 29, 2013

Colin Craig is a younger, fresher option for people who might have been attracted to Winston Peters.

Craig’s Conservative Party has been getting headlines and that’s bestirred a New Zealand First MP to go in search of one too.

He found it in NZ First will stop farm sales to foreigners:

. . . New Zealand First is calling for a complete halt to sales of farmland to non resident foreign buyers, its primary industries spokesman Richard Prosser says.

“Under a New Zealand First-influenced government there will be no more sales of farmland to non resident foreigners, full stop.

“This road leads to peasantry and New Zealanders being tenants in our own country,” Prosser said.

Not surprisingly the rhetoric isn’t supported by the facts:

Though there is no formal record of how much land is owned by offshore investors Overseas Investment Office land information manager Annelies McClure said “Current best estimates are that between 1% and 2% of New Zealand farmland is held by overseas interests.”

That figure excludes forestry and land, such as areas of native bush, not in productive use. . .

Prosser’s rant has been prompted by plans for Synlait Milk to sell to the Pengxin Group.

He doesn’t factor in the foreign exchange this will bring into the country and what those who sell their shares might do with the money they’ll get for them.

But then that wouldn’t get the attention-grabbing negative headline he wanted.

It might not do him and his party any good though because the Conservatives are not keen on foreign ownership either.


Foreign investment isn’t easy here

November 9, 2013

The New Zealand Initiative is researching foreign direct investment and is seeking information:

The $200 million sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin generated a storm of controversy last year, as well as massive legal fees as teams of lawyers waded through rivers of red tape to get the deal across the line.

Yet if the same deal were proposed in Australia, it would apparently have passed with barely a squeak of protest under their Foreign Direct Investment rules, while in Canada it is a more complicated “maybe”.

It seems not all FDI regimes are created equal, particularly as inbound investment is often subject to grey-area factors that are not captured in the black ink of the rules.

We would like to tap into the knowledge of our international friends and followers, so perhaps you can help us:

In what international jurisdictions would the purchase of $200 million (US$165 million) of productive farmland by a Chinese conglomerate have gone through smoothly, and in what countries would it have been red-flagged, as it was in New Zealand?

Your input will be included in our second FDI report, which compares New Zealand’s inbound investment policy framework to other international jurisdictions. All submissions will be published anonymously.

If you would like to help us, please do so in email form to khyaati.acharya@nzinitiative.org.nz by 18 November 2013.

The NZI has comparisons with other countries:

Australia: A $200 million investment would appear to be able to sail through because it is below the investment threshold of A$244 million that triggers Australia’s FDI rules.

Canada: A $200 million investment would appear to sail through at the Federal level because it would be under the threshold level of C$344 million that applies to Chinese investor as China is a WTO-member. However, perhaps it would trigger FDI scrutiny at the provisional level, perhaps most particularly in Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all of which restrict significant investments by overseas persons in productive farmland.

Hong Kong: Presumably, no FDI restrictions would apply to a $200 million purchase in Hong Kong.  But does Hong Kong have $200 million of dairy farmland to purchase?

Korea: We understand that South Korea does limit investment in arable farmland given its limited availability and national significance, but we don’t have any details.

Singapore: We understand that Taiwan does not consider productive land to be a sensitive national asset and applies no monetary threshold to inwards FDI. If so the investment should sail through.

UK: We understand that the United Kingdom would impose no screening requirement on such a transaction and has no monetary threshold for triggering scrutiny, nor is farmland regarded as a ‘sensitive area’.  Presumptively, the purchase would sail through.

USA: At the Federal level the purchase would sail through since all a foreign purchaser of US farmland is required to do is to disclose the purchase to the Secretary for Agriculture.

Foreign investment in farms isn’t easy here.

A New Zealander who manages a farming business for an international company tells me that going through the Overseas Investment Office was a long and difficult process.

It took ages, and was expensive, even when the company was selling a farm it already owned here to buy another and had a good record of employment, development, and responsible stewardship of and best environmental practice on its properties.


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