FOREIGN ownership of Australian farming land is a sensitive issue, especially when investors come from the biggest food market: China.
It's interesting to see what is happening in New Zealand, where dairy is the biggest export industry.
China is NZ's biggest dairy customer. In recent years it has sharply increased its demands on the NZ industry by taking huge quantities of milk powder.
NZ supplies 93 per cent of China's whole milk powder imports. The two countries share a free trade agreement which gives Kiwi exporters (almost entirely Fonterra) a price advantage into the country. The Kiwis now reap the rewards while we wonder how we can get China back to the table to discuss a trade deal.
The expansion of dairy in NZ is fuelled by firm world prices that are largely due to corruption and unsafe practices in the Chinese dairy sector.
The Chinese dairy supply chain is being reinvented with larger farms, new plants and strict codes of food safety, but in the meantime it has built a strong dependence on imported milk powders.
China has 23 per cent of the world's population but less than 11 per cent of the world's arable land. That available land is shrinking.
The sheer size of that population and its demand for nutritious food will ensure NZ can cruise on the back of China's demand.
But a controversial Chinese bid by Shanghai Pengxin for the Crafar group of 16 farms, in liquidation on NZ's North Island since 2009 after horrendous animal treatment was exposed, was recently approved by NZ's overseas investment office.
This deal has sparked a vigorous debate in an election year, bringing out new levels of xenophobia. Opposition and minority parties want Kiwi farming land to remain in local hands. They want their orders but none of their capital.
But other foreign owners have been buying up the country, with the US the heaviest investors in farms.
The Crafar lots have a combined area of about 8000ha. Over the last two years, 360,000ha of NZ's agricultural land has been sold to foreign interests.
The Crafar sales and cases reported in Australia are early forays as government-backed investment from China streams out to lock up reliable supplies. China will set the tone for the global food market in the next decade, and the Australasian land masses are of strong interest.
We'll need to quickly work out how - not whether - we participate and share profitably in their food boom, or we'll watch that capital go across the Tasman or the Pacific.