Who owns Australia? You’d be surprised to learn that the billion dollar barons of our farmland are a Canadian government worker super fund, a New York teacher insurance fund and an Australian pastoral giant backed by a Dutch pension fund.

These three groups, the Canadian PSP Investments, the New York Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and Macquarie Agriculture own a total of 6.3 million hectares of our agricultural land, AgJournal has revealed.

While the largest owner of Australian land by size is Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting – with 9.7 million hectares – the hectares owned by the top three are worth more than $7.4 billion.

Country by country, the UK is the biggest foreign investor in Australian farmland, owning 10.2 million hectares, followed by China with 9.2 million and then, each owning two or more million hectares, the US, the Netherlands, the Bahamas and Canada.

This means that 52.6 million hectares out of Australia’s 385 million of agricultural land is foreign-owned, representing 13.6 per cent.

The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA CREF), with its subsidiary Nuveen, own 71 properties in prime crop farming regions in four states.

These include land in Jondaryan and the Darling Downs, Queensland, Moree and Warren, NSW, and Watheroo and Gnowangerup, WA.

AgJournal described the group as the biggest global investor in agriculture, owning 850,000ha worldwide, with 286,000 hectares in Australia worth more than $1.7b.

Almond trees in bloom near Robinvale on the Murray River, south east of Mildura, where Canadian pension fund PSP Investments owns 12,000 ha of plantations.Source:News Limited

Macquarie Group’s Macquarie Agriculture owns $2.7b in agricultural assets, including cattle, sheep and crop lands which produce thousands of tonnes of beef, wool and livestock annually.

Through three groups, Paraway Pastoral company, Lawson Grains and Viridis Ag, Macquarie oversees 4.7m ha of land, backed by investors including The Netherlands’ Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP.

The largest single owner is the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, or PSP Investments, which manages superannuation funds for workers such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

PSP, in part, achieved its supremacy over Australian farmland by taking over Australia’s fourth-oldest company, Webster Limited, which owned 340,000 ha and 153,000 megalitres of water.

It also bought almond plantations in northern Victoria and 90,000 megalitres of water, cropping and cotton businesses in NSW, a Victorian vineyard and cattle interests.

The fourth biggest owner of Australian ag land is Rural Funds Group which has 692,182ha worth $950m producing beef, cotton, macadamias, almonds and wine.

Next, in fifth place, is Warrakirri Asset Management worth more than $800m cropping and dairy farming on 160,000 ha.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting is next, worth up to $800m of cattle land.

The 1.22m ha Brunette Downs in the NT, owned by the seventh biggest agricultural land owner, the Australian Agricultural Company.Source:News Corp Australia

This includes Rinehart’s purchase of a majority stake in Australian-Chinese consortium Outback Beef, which in 2016 bought the iconic Australian business S Kidman and Co.

The 196-year-old Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) owns seven million hectares of Queensland and Northern Territory beef country.

It is almost half-owned by Bahamas-based British billionaire and currency trader, Joe Lewis.

Another 19th century company, the North Australian Pastoral Company (*NAPCO) founded in 1877, owns $650m worth of mostly Queensland cattle country.

Among the others in the top 20 owners of Australian agricultural land are the Hughes family premium beef holdings worth more than $400m.

Owned by Peter and Jane Hughes and their sons, they now farm Wagyu beef for international markets.

Another family-owned concern by Peter and Jane Harris, Peter’s brother Malcolm Harris and their families own significant pastoral and irrigation lands in NSW and Queensland.

One of Australia’s biggest sheep and cattle producers, Jumbuck Pastoral Company founded in 1888, now owns 4.9m ha worth $350m.

The Williams Cattle Company owns 4.7m ha and the Brook Family owns 3.5m ha.

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