Monday, September 26, 2016

"Chinese Investors Are Buying Up French Farmland"

Following up on Sunday's "California Dreamin' for Chinese investors in US".

As noted in 2012's "French Farmland Offers Better Value than UK Land":
We've been posting on British farmland for years but, outside of the odd Chateau listing and the effects of climate on wine growing I think this is the first French farmland post.
Two things to be very, very wary of: The Common Agricultural Policy and the French tax code....
From Marketplace via Farmlandgrab:
Driving down a country lane through what the poet Péguy, writing about this part of France, described as "oceans of wheat", the farmer and local farmers’ union leader Hervé Coupeau points right and left.
  A farmer drives a combine harvester during a wheat harvest in Monthodon near Tours, central France.

A farmer drives a combine harvester during a wheat harvest 
in Monthodon near Tours, central France
"From here, everything you can see belongs to the Chinese," he said.
French farms are very often farmed by the same families for generations. But in the Berry, the heart of French cereal farming in the center of the country, Chinese buyers have been purchasing farmland in order to assure food supplies for their growing population.
Coupeau doesn’t like it. We get out of the car and go and look at a deserted farmhouse that stands in 2,000 acres of wheat and rapeseed.
The farmer has gone, he tells me, replaced by casual labor.
"[The new owners] hire people for a month or two. The rest of the year there’s no one. It’s empty! With normal owners, as it were, you’d have a family with children in the local school, a farmer’s wife who’d stay on the farm or go out to work — whichever way there’d be life. Here, in this wide open space, there’s nobody," Coupeau said.
A company called Hongyang purchased this and several other farms, acquiring 5200 acres so far. When there’s livestock, it sells that to concentrate on the crops. Wheat, barley and rapeseed mainly.
Coupeau says they paid over twice the market price. Locals say that after each purchase, a group of Chinese investors come to see what they have bought. Then they eat at a local restaurant and return to China. The apparent unwillingness of the buyers to explain who they are and what they are about has upped anxiety.
On a farm that belongs to his parents (his farm is just next door), I met Arnaud Morin as he feeds his eighty black-faced Suffolk sheep. He also raises cattle and grows wheat. The Chinese have bought a farm that also borders on his.    
Like Coupeau, Morin’s family has been cultivating this land for generations. Although Morin does not own the land he farms outright.
"I lease 95 percent of the land I farm," he said. "If one of the owners decided to sell, I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy because the Chinese have pushed prices up so high. It’s the same for young farmers starting out. They can no longer afford to buy land. And I don’t like our land going to foreigners. The land is like our soul."
China is investing heavily in Europe — $23 billion last year compared with $15 billion of Chinese investments in the U.S., according to U.S. business attorneys Baker & MacKenzie.
And this not the first time China has displayed interest in French agriculture....MORE
If interested see also April's "China Buying Farmland In Central France".