On the road to the village of Ciucurova, Romania, a farmer, Costantin Banui, stops his cart near a beekeepers’ trailer to buy a jar of honey. Romania's Minister of Agriculture says farmland in his country is being targetted by multinational corporations. (Photo: Eric Tourneret)
The foreigners currently have more than 700,000 hectares of agricultural area in Romania, representing 8.5 percent of the arable land of the country, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) Valeriu Tabara told a press conference on Monday.
'The agricultural land owned by the foreigners in Romania at the moment is more than 700,000 hectares, with Italy having 24.29 percent of the surface, Germany 15.48 percent and the Arab countries, 9.98 percent. The request to buy agricultural land is a developing phenomenon,' Tabara said.
According to the data revealed by the minister, other countries with significant participations are Austria with 6.13 percent, Spain with 6.22 percent, Denmark with 4.25 percent, the Netherlands with 2.4 percent, Hungary with 8.17 percent, Greece with 2.4 percent and Turkey with 0.78 percent, whereas Malta, Cyprus, Monaco, San Marino and Luxembourg are buying property through off-shore companies, in the amount of 5.91 percent. Land owners in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran are present from the Arab world.
Tabara said that the price of land in Romania, of at least 2,500 euros per hectare, is much below that reported in the EU member states where it might go as high as 15,000 euros per hectare.
According to the minister, the total number of farms belonging to foreigners reached 709 in 2011 as compared to 635 in 2010 and the largest surface is in Timis County, roughly 133,830 ha this year, more than in 2010, when they used to have only 62,736 ha.The area of farmland bought by foreigners rose to 51,553 hectares in 2011 from 37,295 hectares in 2010 in northeastern Romania, to 44,021 hectares from 26,457 hectares in southwestern regions and from 149,569 hectares to 229,336 hectares in western Romania.
The ministry of Agriculture said that Romania is a country with a permissive background on the land market, with a legislation dating back in 1993 and present in the Civil Code and two elements on which buying and possessing arable and agricultural land in Romania depends on, namely to live permanently in Romania in the case of the individual land owners and to be registered in Romania for the companies.
According to the official , the investors in the Middle East are quite interested in purchasing land in Romania, especially those coming from countries importing large quantities of agricultural products. The United Arab Emirates can be mentioned, importing 85 percent of the necessary quantity.
According to the treaty of accession, Romania must open its land market for the non-resident and those living in the EU, in the light of 2016-2020.
The statistics show that Romania ranks sixth in terms of agricultural land in Europe after France, Germany, the UK and Poland, and in point of arable land, it ranks fifth, ahead of the UK.
Tabara added that about 50 countries, Romania included, are the target for more than 1,000 multinational corporations in the field of land market, and the giants intend to invest in land abroad, which are the best investment at the moment.
According to statistics, the world reserves of cereals and technical crops provided food for 116 days for the entire population of the planet in 1999, whereas the same type of reserves are enough for only 56.