Australia's National Farmers' Federation is considering restrictions on foreign ownership in the agricultural industry, according to its president Jock Laurie.
"The industry in general and the Australian community in general though wants to see some sensible parameters put around who can invest and who can't invest in the industry," he said.
Laurie was testifying to the Senate Economics Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the Foreign Acquisitions Amendment (Agricultural Land) Bill.
The inquiry was established to review legislation proposed by independent senator Nick Xenophon and Greens senator Christine Milne to establish a national interest test on proposed foreign acquisitions of farm land.
Valuation above minimum amount
At present, the treasurer only has to assess purchases by foreigners of farm land valued at 231 million Australian dollars (US$241 million) or more.
Recent international investment into the Australian agricultural industry include, Singapore-based Wilmar International's A$1.84 billion purchase of CSR's Sucrogen sugar and renewable energy unit, which produces 40% of Australia's sugar output.
US agri-business giant Cargill is waiting for final regulatory approval for its purchase of the commodity management arm of AWB, the country's biggest wheat exporter, from Canada's Agrium.
Rice farmers are considering a A$600 million offer for their processing and food company RiceGrowers, which trades as SunRice, from Spain's Ebro Foods.
Food demand interest
Xenophon previously told the Senate that purchases of farm land had accelerated since the global food demand crunch in 2008, naming China, South Korea, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states as buyers who have been most aggressive in their purchases.
Laurie agreed that the rise in food prices in recent years had generated interest in Australian farm land. "We need to make sure we maintain competition in the market," he said.