The sell-off continues.
Australian farmers are worried about a bid by foreign companies for Australia’s biggest fertiliser manufacturer, Incitec Pivot Limited (IPL).
IPL recently confirmed to the Australian Stock Exchange that it has received a number of approaches to buy its fertiliser business for an estimated value of $1.5 billion.
IPL is one of the largest importers of fertilisers from plants in Phosphate Hill and Geelong, and was previously the sole producer of urea in Australia.
It stopped production at Gibson Island in January, and it now appears that state-owned Indonesian company, Pupuk Kaltim, is the frontrunner.
The Indonesian state-owned enterprise has several fertiliser plants of its own, but wants to “increase supplies to support food security” in their country.
Farmers need fertilisers like urea, ammonia and NPK — a blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — to boost pastures and crops.
And the same farmers want IPL to stay Australian.
National Farmers Federation Vice President, David Jochinke, said the pandemic proved Australia needed its own supply of key resources and fertiliser was one of them.
For instance, IPL received a $29 million grant from the federal government early on in the COVID ‘pandemic’ to produce refined urea to help shore up domestic supply of the additive AdBlue.
Jochinke conceded Australia does need capital to develop manufacturing, but says he wants the Foreign Investment Review Board to keep farmers at the centre of any decision they made.
“Our preference will be someone who understands the fertiliser industry, somebody who’s got Australia’s best interests at heart, especially our farmers, and somebody who can actually build this industry,” he said.
In a familiar story, we are once again witnessing a leading Australian company about to be bought up by offshore entities, putting us at even greater risk of a weakened supply chain in times of crisis.
Indeed, foreign investors have sucked up just about everything in Australia for themselves in recent decades, from food and water, to power and gas, to farmland and agriculture.
What little national sovereignty we have left diminishes with each and every sale.
THE FOREIGN TAKEOVER
The selling off of Australia has been a massive concern for many citizens for years now.
Perhaps the biggest public backlash came after a Chinese company purchased a 99 year lease over the Port of Darwin for $506 million.
As a result, the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land Act 2015 was introduced shortly after, and from 1 July 2017, foreigners are now required to register their interests for approval.
But, this still hasn’t stopped just about everything being leased or sold.
Sticking with the theme, let’s take a look at farming and agriculture.
As of 30 June 2020, the estimated proportion of agricultural land with a level of foreign ownership in Australia is 13.8 per cent on a national level.
Of the land classified as foreign owned in Australia, 26.2 per cent is now in Tasmania, putting it ahead of the Northern Territory at 25.8 per cent and Western Australia at 17 per cent.
Keep in mind, these are pre-pandemic statistics.
There are a number of uses for our land, but apart from Tasmanian forestry, the majority of agricultural use is indeed for crops, which need fertiliser from groups like IPL.
In 2019, we reported on how the proportion of total water entitlements with a level of foreign ownership is 10.4 per cent, making up a total volume of 4,035 gigalitres across Australia.
This includes significant investments in our precious Murray-Darling Basin.
Let’s also not forget that the majority of Australia’s electricity and gas networks are also now owned by foreign entities, particularly in China, as our review boards continue to approve controversial sales.
Thankfully, there are some good stories emerging through this saga, including the re-buy of a 634,000ha premier cattle station in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
It was bought by one of Australia’s richest families for at least $32 million, returning it to our country.
Let’s hope some more homegrown cash is able to pop up and reclaim our companies and resources, including with IPL’s impending sale to Indonesia.
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