In the peaceful French village of Thiel-sur-Acolin, retired farmer Marc Bernardet is ambivalent about having a Chinese billionaire for a neighbour.
Over the past four years Hu Keqin has quietly snapped up 3,000 hectares of wheat fields in the central Indre and Allier regions, including next door to Bernardet.
His purchases are part of a Chinese buying-spree in recent years stretching from the US to Australia. And in France, struggling farmers fear a landgrab.
“It’s a piece of French heritage that is being taken, but that’s globalisation and that’s the trend at the moment,” Bernardet told AFP.
“If it wasn’t the Chinese, it would be someone else.”The fields may be bare for winter, but Hu has big dreams: eventually they’ll provide some of the flour for 1,500 French bakeries in China, catering to a burgeoning middle class.
But he is keenly aware of the suspicions his project faces in France, where farmers say their traditional family ownership model is under threat from a huge rise in investor purchases.
“We take extremely good care of our land, and we’re using only French people to cultivate it,” the 57-year-old insisted in an interview at his Beijing offices.
“Many foreign investors are buying land in France,” added the understated businessman with a net worth estimated at $1.22 billion by Forbes magazine.“Are we so different from the Germans or the English? Shouldn’t we, like the others, encourage the local economy to develop?”
...MOREMacron vows crackdownHu cannily used legal loopholes – buying almost all of each farm rather than the entirety – to skirt rules that can allow the French government to block sales of farmland...
Way back in 2012 it was:
"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.And then in 2016:
Two things to be very, very wary of: The Common Agricultural Policy and the French tax code....
China Buying Farmland In Central France
"Chinese Investors Are Buying Up French Farmland"