Romania To Slap Curbs On Buying Farmland

Taylor Scott International News

The government is to restrict the ownership of farmland by any single individual to 100 hectares – in what is seen as a measure to restrict purchases by foreign buyers. Marian Chiriac Bucharest The Romanian Agriculture Minister is to send parliament a draft law which would limit individual ownership of farmland to 100 hectares, as a way to protect agriculture. “The law will apply to all persons looking to buy farmland, regardless of their nationality. Those who want to farms larger than 100 hectares can do this only through locally registered companies,” Minister Daniel Constantin said. The law will not be applied retroactively, Constantin added. Farmaland for sale must be bought only by people who must prove they have farming know-how and experience of at least five years in the field. Those who already own farmland and want to buy more land must prove that they have used the land they own already for farming activities. Analysts say the law is aimed mainly at stopping foreigners from buying land in the country after December 31, 2013, when Romania is supposed to open up its market, as agreed in the EU accession treaty. Foreign ownership of land has become a hot issue in Romania. In recent months, the government expressed fears that foreign buyers could take advantage of low land prices and eventually control Romanian agriculture. The amount of farmland in Romania owned by foreigners has increased by more than 10 per cent in the last year alone, prompting the authorities to consider curbs. According to official data, foreigners now own over 710,000 hectares of farmland, which is around 8.5 per cent of the country’s total farmland. Of this amount, around a quarter belongs to Italian citizens, 15 per cent to Germans, and around 10 per cent to buyers from the Middle East. By law, only foreign companies can buy land in Romania – but that restriction has to be lifted by 2014, and the European Commission has called for it to be lifted even earlier. Ironically, agricultural land is not seen as an asset by most Romanians, who tend to consider agriculture a thing of the past. As many as 1.3 million hectares of arable land lie unused in Romania, according to statistics. The total agricultural surface in Romania is 14.7 million hectares, of which 9.3 million hectares are arable. Almost half of Romania’s 19.5 million people still live in rural areas. But agriculture has long lacked investment, while other problems include fragmentation of holdings, property-related lawsuits and obsolete technology. Continue reading →

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