Bloomberg News

Australia Needs Better Data on Farmland to Manage Mining

May 27, 2012

Australia, the second-biggest wheat exporter, needs to improve information on its agricultural real estate to manage competition for land from mining and energy interests, the Australian Farm Institute said.

“Australia does not have a national policy approach about whether areas of high quality agricultural land need to be preserved for that purpose,” according to a report released today by the institute, which conducts farm policy research. “There is not even a national agreement on what should be considered to be strategically important agricultural land.”

Coal-seam gas producers in the country, the top shipper of iron ore, coal and wool, are facing opposition from groups concerned their drilling methods contaminate and deplete water supplies and cut the capacity of food-producing land. New South Wales plans to begin a process of granting and renewing coal- seam gas exploration licenses in June after keeping them on hold to review the environmental and safety impact, Chris Hartcher, the state’s resource minister, said March 20.

“An increasing number of people are starting to express concerns that Australia has been too profligate with its best agricultural land, and future generations might regret decisions that are currently being made about the use of that land,” according to the report. “Despite Australia’s apparent abundance of land, quality agricultural land in good rainfall areas is a relatively rare commodity.”

Land Availability

The lack of information probably comes from the amount of land available and food self-sufficiency, the report said. That has meant that agricultural land and production capacity have never been considered as a high-value resource in need of protection or policy attention, it said. Australia currently produces more than twice the food it consumes.

Mineral and energy projects worth a record A$260.8 billion ($254 billion) were being developed as of April 30 as companies seek to tap the country’s large reserves and proximity to Asia, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said May 24.

Australia exported 20 million tons of liquefied natural gas last year, making it the world’s fourth-largest LNG supplier, Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said this month. The country may be capable of producing about 80 million tons of LNG annually by 2017, surpassing Qatar as the world’s largest exporter of the fuel, Total SA, Europe’s third-biggest oil producer, said May 14.

To contact the reporter for this story: Phoebe Sedgman in Melbourne at psedgman2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net


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