Local Member for Page, Kevin Hogan is hoping local jobs will not be lost as a result of a Chinese buy-out of North Coast macadamia farms.
Four properties covering 380 hectares at Dunoon near Lismore, and formerly run by US-based Hancock Farms, have been bought by a Chinese group known as “Discovery”.
The member for Page Kevin Hogan said he was aware of rumours of a sale.
Mr Hogan said a Free Trade Agreement with China did not mean the door was now open to foreign workers.
“It’s a well-known fact within the free trade agreements that we do with any country, not just China, because let’s not just make this a China thing, that any company and there’s been companies that have owned Australian assets for 200 years and with every free trade agreement the work has to be offered to Australians first,” Mr Hogan said.
Kevin Hogan said any foreign investment greater than $15 million had to be approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, and he was waiting on information on whether the macadamia sale was vetted.
“We made an election commitment to lower it from the ridiculous amount of $ 250 million when it used to be triggered to look at a purchase if it was in the national interest, we have lowered that from 250 to 15 [million dollars] so if this entity has triggered over $15 million it would have absolutely gone before the Foreign Investment Review Board,” Mr Hogan said.
Australian Macadamia Society president, Jolyon Burnett said the farm sale to China reflected global interest in the industry.
“The macadamia industry is already an international industry, we have US, UK, South African, we have a range of overseas interests active in our industry,” he said.
“Already about a quarter of the Australian crop is sent in-shell to China, some of these purchases are simply replacing the ownership.”
But the macadamia industry is also being warned not to be complacent when it comes to protecting its reputation for processing the nut.
“It’s definitely something the Australian industry needs to watch, our processors are world class, they have the safest most consistent product and very often markets will pay a premium for Australian product so we don’t want to see that world-leading processing sector undermined in any way,” Mr Burnett said.
On a visit to Mr Hogan’s seat of Page this week, the Federal Opposition’s spokeswoman for trade visited local macadamia farms.
Penny Wong said foreign investment was the key to growth in the industry.
“We were talking about the need to get more capital into that sector to grow it,” Ms Wong said.
“So we can not only export more, but so we can value add, we can lift supply [and] lift our capacity.”
“Now that’s not going to happen without more capital. It would be great if there was a lot of Australian capital going into that sector but the reality is it’s a global market, and we’re going to see international investment.”
Source: ABC News