Chinese buy up Canada farms?

2013-06-24 03:00:15 GMT2013-06-24 11:00:15(Beijing Time)

With too few farms in China to feed a burgeoning population, Chinese immigrants have started buying up agricultural lands in Canada and shipping produce to Asia.

But with new investment comes fears that a generation of young Canadian would-be farmers are being squeezed out of the market by newcomers that some suspect are being bankrolled by the government in Beijing.

In Saskatchewan province, home to 45 percent of all arable land in Canada, the price of farmland has risen an average of 10 percent in the last year, and as much as 50 percent over three years in areas where Chinese immigrants have settled, according to farmer Ian Hudson, who lives near the village of Ogema.

Provincial authorities counted a half dozen large investment firms buying up farmlands in the province of one million people, but could not say if any of them are linked to Beijing, nor estimate the size of their land holdings.

Facing mounting demands from local mayors for an investigation, Saskatchewan officials began looking into the issue last year.

"The law in Saskatchewan is clear that investment in farmland in this province (buying more than 10 acres) is restricted to citizens of Canada and permanent residents," provincial agriculture minister Lyle Stewart told AFP.

Similarly farm corporations must be 100 percent Canadian-owned.

However, he added, a special investigator was hired to probe "rumors that certain interests are trying to get around our law... that these people are funded by offshore money," as well as "where the investment money is coming from."

"Two or three suspicious cases" were identified that are facing further scrutiny, the minister said, declining to offer further details while the investigation is ongoing.

Stewart noted also that Saskatchewan real estate is relatively cheap, taxes are low, borrowing rates are at a historic low, commodity prices are on the upswing and hence, "conditions are perfect for people who want to invest."

Editor: Yu Runze
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