Romanian land markets open

photo by: Alexandru Babos

According to a recent law proposal drafted by the Romanian Ministry for Agriculture, from the 1st of January, 2014, individuals would be limited to the purchase of a maximum of 100 hectares and future owners would need to prove their farming know-how.

Daniel Constantin, Romanian Minister for Agriculture affirms that: “the essence of the law is represented by the fact that we are in discussions with the Ministry for Justice and all the actors which are involved in this process, trying to limit the private individual property to 100 hectares, whether we are talking about Romanian or foreign individuals. We do not interfere with the property, in accordance with what the Constitution says, stating that property is guaranteed by law. It will probably be an organic law which will say that individuals that own agricultural land, from now on can have not more than 100 hectares. Whoever wants to buy more than 100 hectares would have to set up a company”.

Setting up companies will hardly be an obstacle for multinational companies which have already succeeded in grabbing 10% of the Romanian agricultural lands under the current legislation permitting large land acquisitions by multinational companies registered in the country.

Another important fact refers to the establishment of the preemption right at the time of the land sale, and here it is important to take into account the co-owners, tenants, young farmers and the interest of the state regarding the land, especially on the agricultural land consolidation idea”, Constantin continued, mentioning that the Ministry will discuss the law at the level of the government, and then will send it to the Parliament, so that by the end of the year the law would be adopted. “It is the duty of the state to conceive measures which would guarantee that the Romanian farmers are not disadvantaged”, concluded the minister, referring to the European Accession Treaty which allows for Romania  to open up its land markets towards foreign individuals by the beginning of 2014.

The procedures are so complicated that the Ministry proposes the establishment of a new agency, the Authority for Management and Regulation of the Land Market, restructuring the already scandal hit State Domains Agency.

The new law would also test the agricultural know-how of the future land owners, demanding either proof of agricultural knowledge or at least 5 years of experience in farming. “It is a condition which we had to include. The conditions are not mentioned in this law, they will be defined subsequently through methodological norms”, explained the minister, hinting that other European countries like France also have drastic measures, just like these.

It should be noted that, even if having a diploma is strongly recommended and enable the young farmers to get subsidies in France, the countries land agency, SAFER (Société d’aménagement foncier et d’établissement rural), doesn’t request at all certificates to own farmland.

While this law proposal has some way to go until it is enforced, it is still an indicative of the direction that the Ministry would like to take, just as the European green light signaling the start of a new race for land flashes.

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About Attila Szocs 15 Articles

Attila Szocs is based in Romania. He works with Eco Ruralis, a grassroots peasants association. Eco Ruralis is a member of Via Campesina, currently made up of 500 members from all regions of Romania, who practice organic and traditional farming based on environmentally conscious principles. Urban and rural gardeners as well as conscious consumers are also involved.