Foreign Investment in Australian Agriculture

April 27, 2018 3:03 pm

To successfully invest in the Australian agricultural sector, foreign entities must first understand the potential Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) considerations. The following has been adapted from information provided by the FIRB and Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Under Australia’s foreign investment framework, certain proposed investments require notification and potentially approval before the investment can be made. The requirements vary and are based on a number of factors including whether the investor is a foreign government or non-government investor, the type of acquisition, whether the acquisition is subject to monetary thresholds and free trade agreements.

All acquisitions of interests regardless of whether they require approval and regardless of value must be notified to the ATO Register of Foreign Ownership.

Agricultural land

Proposed investments in agricultural land generally require approval where the cumulative value of a foreign person’s agricultural land holdings exceeds $15 million, with exceptions applying to investors from Australia’s trade agreement partners and a $0 threshold applying to Foreign Government investors.

Thresholds for agricultural land investments

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Thresholds for agricultural land investments

Exceptions

Foreign persons are able to apply for an exemption certificate to cover a program of acquisitions of interests in agricultural land. Exemption certificates for agricultural land would generally be considered where; the total proposed value of acquisitions over a three year period does not exceed $100M or the regions where the agricultural land in which interests are to be acquired are defined clearly. Exemption certificates would generally be granted subject to a condition that limits the maximum value for a single transaction to $10M and a periodic reporting condition on acquisitions made during the period.

Sale Process

As part of the national interest test, FIRB will consider whether there was an opportunity for Australians to acquire a given parcel of agricultural land. The decision maker will have regard to the openness and transparency of the sale process.

Generally, approval will not be granted for any acquisition of agricultural land that was not offered for sale publicly and marketed widely for a minimum of 30 days. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure Australians have had sufficient opportunity to bid in any sale process.

Exceptions to this requirement include acquisitions where the applicant:

  • has a substantial Australian ownership share (+50%)
  • is undertaking an internal reorganisation
  • is acquiring a property via a private sale that was marketed widely in the last six months but did not
  • is required to make the acquisition to comply with State or Commonwealth law (e.g. mining buffer zones)
  • is acquiring an interest in an ASX listed company
  • is increasing their interest where they already hold more than a 50% interest (provided that there is no change in the underlying agricultural land holdings)
  • is acquiring a leasehold interest with a duration between 5 and 10 years
  • is acquiring a leasehold interest in a wind or solar farm development.

Impact Ag have the experience and expertise in guiding you through the foreign investment framework and guidelines. Why not start your agricultural investment now. . . contact us for more information.

Information sources
https://www.ato.gov.au/general/foreign-investment-in-australia/agricultural-investment/
http://firb.gov.au/resources/guidance/