GOODMAN Fielder appears to be the latest Australian food group to head overseas, writes CHRIS McLENNAN
Global companies already own a thick slice of Australian bread.
The looming takeover of Australia's biggest baker, Goodman Fielder, by a multinational in Singapore will mean all Australia's big bread-makers will be in foreign hands.
Some conservative politicians are now demanding the Federal Government protect the nation's food-makers as well as the food-growers from dominant foreign ownership.
Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss has hinted at a new Coalition policy to investigate any proposed foreign investment purchases of Australia food businesses by lowering the present limit of $244 million to about $20 million.
The Victorian Farmers Federation wants the limit as low as $5 million.
Mr Truss said securing Australia's food supply was in the national interest like defence and media.
Singapore-based Wilmar International has upped its stake in Australia's biggest agri-food company to 10 per cent amid growing speculation it will launch a $1.6 billion takeover bid for the company.
George Weston and Goodman Fielder use about 1.1 million tonnes of Australian grain between them each year out of a total domestic flour milling market of about two million tonnes.
Allied Mills has an exclusive contract to supply Goodman Fielder's flour and mills about 800,000 tonnes of grain annually.
Allied is jointly owned by GrainCorp (60 per cent) and Cargill (US) after buying Goodman Fielder's mills (Bunge, Defiance) in 2002.
Stock analysts have been speculating for years that GrainCorp will itself be a takeover target by overseas investors.
Westons and Goodman Fielder are by far the nation's dominant bakers with well-known brands Helgas, Vogels and Mighty Soft (Goodman Fielder) and Tip Top (George Weston).
The supermarket chains make up the rest with their home-brand breads, with franchises such as Baker's Delight or Banjo's well behind them.
Goodman Fielder would be the latest in a long line of Australian food companies lost to foreign interests.
Earlier this year, the Foreign Investment Review Board approved the sale of Manassen Foods to China's second largest food company, Bright Food Group, for an estimated $400 million.
A major producer of many grocery items, Manassen is also the parent company of Australia's largest dried fruit processor Sunbeam Foods in Mildura and Angas Park in the South Australian Riverland.
Sunbeam's iconic sultanas have joined Vegemite, Aeroplane Jelly, and Golden Circle in heading overseas.
Goodman Fielder already sold off another icon, Uncle Tobys, snapped up by the Swiss in 2006.
Another big Singapore food business, Olam International, won a bargain when the flawed investment vehicle Timbercorp collapsed in 2008.
Olam bought 8000ha of almond groves near Robinvale representing about 30 per cent of the Australian almond crop.
It also included Victoria's biggest single-water parcel of 40,825 megalitres of water rights. The total price was $128 million.
Rural independent and Australia Party leader Bob Katter said he was diametrically opposed to a takeover of Goodman Fielder.
"Now three-quarters of the sugar mills are foreign owned, the dairy factories are foreign owned and now Goodman Fielder will be foreign owned," Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter has called for strategic resources and industries to be kept in Australian ownership of more than 50 per cent.