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Foreign investment in Australian farmland is growing, but is this welcome?

A growing number of investors from China and the UK are purchasing farmland in Australia, new data shows.

Figures from the Australian Tax Office reveal that Chinese investors have snapped up an additional 1.5 million hectares of farmland down under over the last 12 months, taking the total area that they own to almost 14.5 million hectares.

However, buyers from the UK remain the biggest investors in rural land, placing China second. Last year, China came fifth on the list, but it has since knocked the US out of the second place spot due to a significant increase in interest in the last year.

This revelation has been met with a mixed response. Some are happy that the rural sector is being supported financially by investors from overseas; others are calling on the National Party for the Federal Government to introduce tighter restrictions on the amount of farmland that foreign investors are allowed to buy.

Speaking to ABC News, president of the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Fiona Simson admitted that the organisation may have been somewhat ignorant recently about exactly who was purchasing rural land in Australia due to the sector urgently requiring investment.

"We've been agnostic at NFF about whether that comes from overseas or whether that in fact comes from onshore Australian investors," Ms Simson said.

"So I think it's certainly not all about thresholds that we put in and the restrictions around that."

One of the main concerns is that the food grown on farmland may be more likely to be sold outside of Australia if the land is purchased by foreign investors, lowering food security levels down under.

But not everyone representing the rural community necessarily want tighter restrictions on who can invest in Australian farmland.

Malcolm Brennan, an adviser for law firm King & Mallesons, stated: "[Investment] doesn't have to rise significantly. I'd prefer to see it about the same, but we need more foreign investment, particularly in the north."

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