lose control of its food resources? Australia
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
There are fears that
TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER:
It's something which we take for granted, but there are those who believe that as the world's population increases,
Already foreign interests are increasingly looking to
As part of a multimedia special involving ABC's News Online and Radio National's Background Briefing, Andrew Robertson has prepared this report.
ANDREW ROBERTSON, REPORTER: In a country as steeped in farming as
JULIAN CRIBB, UNI. OF TECHNOLOGY,
ANDREW ROBERTSON: In his new book, The Coming Famine, Professor Cribb paints a bleak future of a planet where food is in very short supply. The world's population is tipped to hit nine billion by 2050 and 11 billion just 10 years later.
Food production will need to double, but many countries will be left behind, particularly those like
JULIAN CRIBB: Well I once asked that question to some Chinese academics, I asked them what the carrying capacity of
ANDREW ROBERTSON: According to Professor Cribb this shortage of food is going to have serious implications for countries like
ANDREW ROBERTSON: The evidence suggests that process is already underway. Just this month, Singapore-based Wilmar outbid
An increasing number of prime Australian farms are being purchased by overseas companies. For example,
The Packer family has sold 17 properties to a British private equity firm. The American pastoral giant Westchester has played $40 million for properties at properties in Moree in
Bill Heffernan is the chairman of the Senate inquiry into food production. He shares Professor Julian Cribb's concerns about the surge in foreign investment in Australian agricultural assets.
BILL HEFFERNAN, CHAIRMAN, INQUIRY INTO FOOD PRODUCTION: We're asleep in Australia to the fact that a lot of places round the world such as China, India and the Arab states are looking at where they're gonna be in 40 or 50 years' time and they're making provision now for their food task in the future.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: Which according to Bill Heffernan eventually could see Australian farmers becoming tenants in their own country.
BILL HEFFERNAN: Because we are an attractive destination for safe capital investment, we will lose control of our destiny to outsiders and the worst of that will be government outsiders.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: A look at the Tasmanian dairy industry provides some salutary insights.
JIM HURSEY, DAIRY FARMER: It's actually costing us to go to work. We're actually going to work, doing our job and at the end of the day, we're getting a bill for doing our job! How many people do you know that do that? No one.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: In the Apple Isle, dairy farmers have had enough. Their industry is dominated by two foreign-owned companies -
GLENYS FURZE, DAIRY FARMER: We've been milking 25 years and our farm is really our super fund, like a lotta farmers. And we're just seeing that going down the drain.
ANDREW ROBERTSON: For Bill Heffernan, it's a classic case of how Australians can be the big losers when foreign investment is allowed to go unchecked.
BILL HEFFERNAN: I chaired the milk inquiry in
ANDREW ROBERTSON: The irony is that although foreign investment has contributed to the plight of Tasmanian dairy farmers, for many of them, foreign investment could also be the only hope of escape.
With no Australian buyers coming forward for their farms, estate agents are hawking them overseas. One agent alone has 40 farms she's trying to sell in
GLENYS FURZE: No-one wants to see our farms sold out to another country. There's not one of us wanna see that. But what do we do? Do we sit back with our hands tied and go broke and lose everything?
ANDREW ROBERTSON: The answer for many people connected with agricultural industries is for
TICKY FULLERTON: And in the second part of our investigation tomorrow night, we'll be examining the New Zealand model, which could provide the answer to this growing problem.
For more detailed coverage on the battle for control of Australian farmland, you can visit ABC News Online at abc.net.au/news