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Unease as Chinese billionaire buys prime French arable land

A Chinese buyer has caused alarm by purchasing more than 3,000 hectares (7,500 acres) of prime wheat growing land in the Alier and Central Indre regions of France.

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Hu Keqin, chairman of the acquisitive Record Group of companies, intends to supply wheat to a chain of 1,500 French-style bakeries in his homeland.

 

His hunch is that as Chinese tastes become more westernised consumers will be develop a liking for baguettes and other French bakery products.

 

This is of course not the first time Chinese buyers have purchased land around the world.

 

Huge tracts of Africa in particular are under Chinese ownership.

 

It is, however, one of the first large scale purchases of land within Europe.

 

French farmers, fiercely patriotic at the best of times, are said to be uneasy about the development.


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Speaking to a gathering of young farmers at the Elysee Palace, President Emmanuel Macron said: "French agricultural lands are strategic investments on which our sovereignty depends.

 

"We cannot allow hundreds of hectares of land to be bought by foreign powers without us knowing the aim of these purposes."

 

Laws already exist to control the sale of French farms to foreign owners but it seems that Mr Hu has been able to circumvent these by buying parts of farms rather than entire units.

 

Mr Hu is believed to have a net worth of $1.2 billion (£860 million) and has interests in chemicals, food and tourism.

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