Notwithstanding political turmoil and tightening regulations, the New South Wales government strongly supports foreign investment into the state’s agriculture sector and will help farmers attract capital, according to NSW deputy premier John Barilaro.
Speaking exclusively to Agri Investor, Barilaro said there was “always room” for foreign investment in any part of the state’s economy, including agriculture.
“We are part of the global market, and foreign investment is important because in Australia we sometimes lack the ability to attract capital,” he said. “And therefore we don’t have a hang-up about foreign investment because it brings jobs and security, and builds diversity into our economy, and we’ll support that every day.”
Barilaro is leader of the NSW Nationals, the junior partner in the state’s Coalition government alongside the NSW Liberal Party. As well as serving as deputy premier, he is also minister for regional NSW, minister for small business, and minister for skills.
Regulation around foreign investment, in particular the remit and scope of the Foreign Investment Review Board, is the responsibility of the federal government, but states could do more to help connect investors with opportunities in regional Australia, Barilaro said.
“[The federal government has] got a whole heap of rules around foreign investment, but I think one of the things we’ve been doing really well in NSW is identifying where there’s opportunity for investment,” he said. “What we’ve got to do as a state is showcase it [and] also then invest in infrastructure that unlocks the opportunity.”
The state of NSW was last month declared to be 100 percent in drought following a drier-than-expected June and July, with media reports in Australia focusing on farmers suffering under difficult dry conditions.
Barilaro said Australian agriculture was “still a good investment” despite the extended dry period and said there was “more resiliency in the sector than we’ve ever seen before” thanks to direct policy interventions from the government, such as drought relief.
“It’s still a strong sector and one of the things we’ve got to be very mindful of is that we don’t want to talk down our markets,” he said.
“Often, the spotlight on a drought is on the issue at hand – [but] the reality is we’re still a strong sector. It’s worth about A$16 billion ($11.5 billion; €9.9 billion) a year here in NSW and one of the things we’re sure of is it will rain [again]. As a government, we’ll get behind our farmers and make sure we’re back on our feet quickly.”