Saturday, May 30, 2020

Agribusinesses Still Dominate Australia's Agriculture

Written by: Ned K. on 31 May 2020

Ownership and control of agricultural land in Australia is an important part of the people's struggle for independence and socialism, especially with climate change likely to contract the total amount of agricultural land in Australia and indeed the whole planet.

In the 1960s and early 1970s the First Peoples won a great victory regarding ownership and control of agricultural land with the seven-year Walk Off at Wave Hill against British cattle baron Lord Vestey. Vestey and another cattle baron, McAlpine, had seized control of about half the Northern Territory's agricultural land.
In 2020, corporate ownership of agricultural land has expanded across all States and Territories with the modern day Vesteys called 'agribusinesses’. Many of these are controlled by the finance capital centers of world capitalism.
According to the May 2020 edition of AgJournal, the agribusinesses in Australia have continued to prosper during the Corona Virus period while other sectors of the capitalism in Australia have shut up shop.
Old money, family-owned agricultural empires in Australia are fast disappearing. A symbol of this trend was the sale of Kidman family's 12 cattle stations to the Outback Beef/Hancock Prospecting conglomerate. This agribusiness is 65% owned by Gina Rinehart and 35% owned by Shanghai CRED which trades in Australia in the name of Zenith Investment Holdings.
Gina Rinehart's track record as a "respectable corporate citizen" is well known. Less known is that Shanghai CRED breached an Indigenous Land Agreement on a cattle station in northern Western Australia. Shanghai CRED is WA's biggest landholder, with extensive cattle stations in the Kimberley and the state's goldfield region and farm ownerships on the edge of the Wheat Belt.
However, contrary to the China-bashing pro-US mass media, Chinese ownership of agricultural land is minor compared with agribusinesses owned and controlled from North American and Western European finance capital interests.
The AgJournal May edition contained a list of the top 10 agribusinesses owning land and food processing in Australia with a few surprises in it.
The Top 10 In Order of Asset Value
1. Public Sector Pension Investments (PSP) from Canada. A superannuation management fund for Canadian police and other public servants. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $3 billion
2. Macquarie Agriculture. A division of Macquarie Financial Services. Asset value of $2.7 billion in agriculture in Australia
3. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA - CREF). This New York based investor is the biggest investor in agriculture globally. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $1.7 billion.
4. Rural Funds Group. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $950 million. Major shareholders appear to be Australian based. The Group has large scale investment in cotton, almond orchards, beef and vineyards across four states.
5. Warakirri Asset Management. Manages agricultural investments for major superannuation funds, include the retail workers' fund REST. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $800 million. It has extensive property ownership in the dairy country of western Victoria and the south east of South Australia. It is also one of the largest grain-growing owners in the country.
6. Outback Beef/Hancock Prospecting. Asset value in Australian agriculture is $800 million. These interests complement Gina Rinehart's extensive mining interests and mineral exports to China in particular.
7.Australian Agricultural Company. Asset value in Australian agriculture of $738 million. This British owned agribusiness was started in Australia in 1824 by a British Act of Parliament. It still "owns' 1% of the Australian land mass with cattle stations sprawling across the NT and Queensland.
8. North Australian Pastoral Company (NAPCO). Asset value in Australian agriculture is $650 million. This agribusiness was started in 1877 and is majority owned by the Queensland Government's Queensland Investment Corporation.
9. Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC). Assets value in Australian agriculture of $600 million. It is owned by a private equity company from the UK, Terra Firma Capital Partners. It is in agriculture for speculative purposes, selling off properties to the highest bidder. Recently it sold cattle stations in WA and Queensland to a company calling itself Clean Agriculture And International Tourism which is a Vietnam based investment group.
10. Hancock Agricultural Investment Group. Assets value in Australian agriculture of $600 million. This Group manages $US3.1 billion worth of farmland globally including substantial holdings in California, Mid-West and Mississippi Delta regions.
There are another 10 agribusinesses not far behind these top ten by asset value.
By land mass value, the pecking order changes slightly but the players are the same.
The corporate nature of agriculture ownership has created a large rural First Peoples- led working class which creates the surplus value and profits for these agribusinesses. As can be seen in the top 10 list, a lot of the wealth created ends up overseas, following the pattern of Vestey in the days when British imperialist interests were dominant in Australian agriculture.
The struggles at Wave Hill by First Australians with their seven-year strike to win back their land is very relevant today.

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