In its current form, the draft bill limiting individuals’ ownership of farmland to 100 hectares will make it harder for Romanian farmers to purchase land rather than discourage foreigners, said Laurentiu Baciu, president of the League of Romanian Farmers’ Associations (LAPAR) during a press conference today.
He added that some of the restrictions proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) in its draft bill – such as setting a limit to 100 ha and favoring potential buyers under 40 – are discriminatory. Moreover, the creation of a state agency which will be granted pre-emption rights to buy land which is up for sale will lead to market distortions.
Baciu is not the only one to criticize the measures proposed by MADR. The draft bill needs improvements, said Valeriu Steriu, president of the presidential commission for public and agriculture development policies during a conference organized by ZF today.
In its current form, the draft bill lacks transparency, provides several absurd restrictions and unconstitutional elements, hinders urban development and favors intermediaries at the expense of small farmers, said Radu Ionescu, managing partner of the Ionescu and Sava law firm during the same event. He argued that imposing such restrictions because of fears over next year’s land market liberalizations is not justified. The number of transactions will not increase dramatically starting with January 2014 as foreigners interested in buying land in Romania have already done so by circumventing the existing legislative restrictions. Instead, the new restrictions proposed by MADR will make it harder for local farmers, especially small ones, to buy land, he added.
A draft bill that would limit individuals’ ownership of farmland to 100 hectares will be sent to Parliament in a couple of weeks, the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced last week. If passed, the law will come into force on January 1, 2014, when the local land market will be liberalized, allowing foreign individuals to purchase and own land in Romania.
Farmers who want to cultivate more than 100 ha of land can do so only through locally registered companies.
In addition to the 100 ha ownership limit, the draft proposes several other restrictions on those who want to sell and purchase farmland. Co-owners who are individuals, neighbors, tenants, and individuals under 40 years of age involved in farming activities in the same area will have pre-emption rights to purchase farmland that is up for sale. The state too will have pre-emption rights and a special institution will be created. Plots of land located closer than 10 km from the border and those where archaeological remains are found would be permitted to be sold only with the approval of the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Culture, respectively.
Interested buyers must prove they have farming know-how and at least five years of experience in the field. Those who already own farmland and want to buy more must prove that they have used the land they own for farming activities.