By Matt Walsh
CANBERRA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Less than 15 percent of Australia's farmland is foreign owned, with Britain owning more than half of all foreign-owned land, a federal government release had detailed.
The Turnbull government on Wednesday released its farm register, which tracks the ownership of Australian agricultural properties, and found that 13.6 percent of Australia's farmland was owned by off-shore companies.
Despite concern's surrounding China's rapidly-increasing interest in Aussie farmland, the report found Chinese companies own just 0.5 percent of all agricultural land in Australia, and rank behind Britain, the United States, the Netherlands and Singapore.
British companies own 53 percent of the foreign-owned farmland, or 7.2 percent of total farmland in Australia.
Executive director of the Australian Farm Institute, Mick Keogh, said it would come as a surprise to many Australians that China did not appear to own more agricultural land, particularly as the federal government had been hesitant to sell Australia's largest pastoral company S. Kidman & Co. to a Chinese conglomerate.
Acting Prime Minister and government agriculture spokesperson, Barnaby Joyce said the release of the register was critical to the future of foreign investment in Australia, a key pillar of the nation's transition into a global economy.
He said it was important to understand and recognize how much Australian land was foreign owned, and that transparency would help the government encourage more targeted foreign investment in the future.
"This is the first comprehensive data on the actual level of foreign ownership of agricultural land in Australia," Joyce said in a statement released on Wednesday.
"This common perception that the level of foreign ownership has been increasing seems confirmed."
"Previous estimates by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found at June 2013, 12.4 percent (of farmland in Australia) was foreign owned.
"This has also increased on the December 2010 survey estimate of 11.3 percent."
Meanwhile the nation's Treasurer Scott Morrison said that foreign investment was "integral to Australia's economy," and the register would be a vital asset to the government as investment opportunities continue to arise.
"It contributes to growth, productivity and creates jobs, but the community must have confidence that this investment is in the national interest," Morrison said on Wednesday.
Australia and Morrison has come under fire in recent weeks for its treatment of Chinese firms interested in purchasing Australian assets and farmland.
Earlier this year, the Treasurer blocked the sale of S. Kidman & Co. on national security grounds as the pastoral land backs onto the Woomera defence site, while he also denied a Chinese conglomerate the right to purchase Ausgrid, the nation's largest electricity provider, as it wasn't in the "national interest."