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Byron Shire
October 25, 2021

Chinese interests buy macadamia farms around Dunoon

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Macadamia nut farms on the north coast are prized by the Chinese for their efficiency.
Macadamia nut farms on the north coast are prized by the Chinese for their efficiency.

The recent purchase by Chinese interests of four large macadamia farms in the Dunoon area with around 130,000 trees was approved by the federal government under its national interest test.

The four farms in the ‘macadamia capital of Australia’, totalling 380 hectares, were bought by Chinese investment group Discovery for around $18 million.

But Member for Page, Kevin Hogan, says no local jobs will be lost as a result of the sale.

Mr Hogan said the purchase had to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board as it exceeded the foreign investment threshold of $15 million.

A spokesman for the new owner told the ABC that it would not make sense to bring in workers from overseas to manage the farms, as Australian farms were already highly-mechanised and efficient.

Company spokesman Alex Yum told the ABC that Australian macadamia farms were known for their efficiency.

’For the same size farms in Australia we use five people to manage them, but if you put this kind of size farm in China we would use 100, maybe 200 people to manage… so it’s highly efficient here in Australia,’ he said.

Mr Hogan told Echonetdaily that all purchases of agricultural land, including on the north coast, that were over the $15 million limit ‘have gone through the National Interest Test’.

He said the Nationals at the last election ‘took a commitment to lower the foreign investment threshold from $250m to $15m’.

‘This is the level that the Foreign Investment Review Board investigate foreign purchases of land. They determine whether it is in the national interest or not. I am very disappointed Labor wants to increase this threshold to $50 million,’ he said.

Local real-estate agents say Chinese investors are keen to invest inmulti-million-dollar macadamia orchards in both NSW and Queensland to protect their supply.

 

 

According to ABC Rural, Australia exports nearly a quarter of its national crop to China, and local growers are already struggling to keep up with the strong demand.

Last year, Australia produced 48,300 tonnes of nuts in-shell, up 10 per cent on last year, and those numbers are tipped to rise again this year.

 

And prices have improved too.

In the 2014 season ,growers were getting around $3.50 per kilogram of nut in shell, but last year the price skyrocketed to around $4.50/kg.

The Australian Macadamia Society says about 10 per cent of macadamia farms are foreign owned and it is not concerned about any increase in that trend .

Jolyn Burnett, the society’s chief executive officer, told the ABC that there had been overseas investment in the Australian macadamia industry for many years, with ‘no more than a dozen out of 80 or more farms sold’.

But observers say many of the sales go largely unnoticed,  because the Foreign Investment Review Board only needs to scrutinise the sales if they are $15 million and above.

However, as of July last year all foreign sales need to be listed on a national register, regardless of price.

Mr Burnett told the ABC  in January that Australian companies are investing in macadamia businesses in South African, China and Hawaaii at similar levels.

‘An Australian is the biggest grower of macadamias in South Africa, an Australian company owns about a third of the macadamias in Hawaii,’ he said.

‘There are Australian shareholders in at least two orchards in China, so this foreign cross ownership goes both ways.’

He said that in most of the sales he’s been involved with, the investors want to keep Australian managers and workers on site.

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Why do we sell our property to overseas parties would not a long term lease say 50-100 years be appropriate as per most countries around the world. Selling our dirt is selling our country’s future rental wealth.
    Try to buy land in China.
    See how you go.

    Always good to think about the future

    Cheers
    Larry

  2. What concerns me is “How many of the nuts will be sent to China for processing, thus bypassing our local labour intensive processing facilities?” A good proportion of northern river nuts is already sent to China as it is (for processing).

  3. What seems to be of concern here are the statements by the Australian Macadamia Society. A price of $3.50 to $4.50 is not a skyrocket.
    No complaints about the Chinese but what if Woolworths and Coles started to buy in?

  4. The fact is that they can’t take the farm home and we can always adjust our taxation system to capture value if we don’t feel they are contributing enough to our society. Careful controls on cross border pricing should be employed and also on ensuring that the operation is maintained and not put into care and maintenance.

    Hereforth it is very important that our property remains open to foreign investment of capital values will decline.

  5. australia should always invite investment but should never give away control hence keep %50 plus….even the Thai’s understand that basic principle.

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