Canegrowers group CEO says Aussie investors are needed

THE head of the Canegrowers, a lobby group funded by cane farmers, has said the future of Australian cane needs to be driven by domestic investment.

The comments from Canegrowers CEO Steve Greenwood came after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a publicly available registry documenting where Australian agricultural has been brought by foreign investors.

"Foreign investment (in agriculture) is not a new thing, but we want to take the politics out of foreign ownership," Ms Gillard said on Tuesday.

"We understand the need for more informed public debate, which is why I am announcing the Government will be introducing a register for foreign ownership of land, to provide the community with more complete picture."

CEO of Canegrowers Steve Greenwood said international interest in Australian cane land is very strong and Australian investors need to meet that interest if the industry is to remain securely Australian owned.

"International investors can't buy into Australian sugar fast enough - foreign ownership of our sugar milling assets has escalated from some 15% to 75% in three short years," said Mr Greenwood.

"These guys are seeing an enormously bright future, tipping large dollars into upgrading facilities which is good news for growers.

"But we need to achieve transparency in the process to achieve the right balance.

Canegrowers is a lobby organisation whose membership is made up of 85% of Australian canefarmers.

Mr Greenwood went on to say the industry needs the injection of some foreign capital in order to maintain its position as a state of the art world leader.

He said foreign investment had been hugely positive for the sugar industry and helped conceive its recent resurgence.

However with cane land quickly becoming hot property Mr Greenwood challenged Australian investors to balance foreign interest and keep the industry Australian.

"We are challenging Australian investors to take another look at Australian agriculture," said Mr Greenwood.

"Make no mistake, the sheer amount of interest by international investors is being driven by their commercial interests.

"We have a bright future.

"We are seen by the world as clean, green food producers.

"We are seen as world-class farmers, looking after our environs, and leading the world with our research and technology."

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