Lőrinc Mészáros, childhood friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and one of the richest businessmen in Hungary, with the profession of gas installer, obtained 1.290 hectares of arable land in Romania, informs the 24.hu news site based on the data published in the Official Gazette of Romania.
Lorinc Mészáros, an entrepreneur who wins the public auctions in series in Hungary, has several investments in agriculture, which he unified last year in a holding, Talentis Agro Zrt (SA). According to the January 29 official gazette, Talentis Agro Zrt bought Farmland Development Srl for 8.35 million euros, a company with a registered capital of 5.2 million euros, according to Digi24 correspondent in Budapest, Balazs Barabas.
Farmland was founded in 2015 in Romania by Dutch businessmen, who began very quickly to buy arable lands in the counties of Arad and Bihor, totaling 1290 hectares. The business turned out to be modest, in 2017 the company had only a profit of 3450 euros, according to the official data. But with the acquisition of the Dutch firm, Meszaros made an excellent deal: compared to the average price of 6,500 euros / ha for which he bought the company and the lands, it now costs 8,000-11,000 euros, so a minimum gain of 1 million euro, writes 24.hu.
The Hungarian site also quotes some “rumors” from the market, according to which purchases were made from the start for Meszaros, but a Dutch company was not “eye-catching”, while the emergence of an investor in Hungary buying hundreds of hectares of arable land would have raised the interest of the political sphere and the press in Romania.
How much land do foreigners own in Romania
The area of agricultural land exploited by foreign natural and legal persons in Romania was 422,000 hectares at the end of 2018, accounting for 793 people using these lands, according to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) at AGERPRES request.
From the point of view of origin, most people were from Italy – 194, Germany – 80 people, France – 33, Austria – 31 people, the Netherlands – 28, Spain – 23, Belgium – 17, Danmark – 10 people, etc.
With regards to the sale of agricultural land in Romania, the operational data of the Ministry of Agriculture, according to the procedure provided by Law no. 17/2014, shows that 154,076.23 hectares were sold last year, almost similar to 2017, respectively 153,927.46 hectares. Last year a total offers of the sold area was 149,546 and in 2017 – 149,767.
The MADR statistics in recent years show that in 2014 there were 58,875.14 hectares of agricultural land sold, in 2015 – 172,353.79 hectares, and in 2016 – 144,350 hectares.
In 2019, until April 30, 48,746.67 hectares of agricultural land were sold, the number of offers being 50,304.
Romania has a total agricultural area of 14,630,072 hectares, of which 13,699,725 ha (93.6%) is in private ownership, while arable land is 9,395,303 hectares, of which 8,940,204 hectares ( 95.1%) are in private ownership.
What law is being prepared in Parliament for the sale of agricultural land
At present, at Parliament level, there is a legislative initiative that will regulate the sale of agricultural land in Romania and aims at amending and completing the Law no. 17/2014. It was submitted for report to the Standing Committees of the Chamber of Deputies as a decision-making chamber for the purpose of exercising parliamentary control and finalizing the parliamentary procedure, Agerpres recalls.
The legislative proposal aims at establishing the pre-emptive right in this order: co-owners and first-degree relatives, the lessee/owners of agricultural investments for the crops of trees, vine and hops, farmers of neighboring agricultural lands, young farmers, research units as well as the Romanian state through the State Domains Agency.
In the case of young farmers exercising the right of pre-emption, the young farmer carrying out livestock activities is prioritized when buying land, subject to the condition of domicile/residence established within the national territory for a period of one year.
The main conditions of prospective buyers are: the domicile (residence) located in the national territory established for a period of at least 5 years prior to the registration of the offer of sale; to carry out agricultural activities on national territory for a period of at least 5 years prior to the listing of this offer; to be registered by the Romanian tax authorities at least 5 years prior to the registration of the offer for sale and to have studies in the agricultural field.
In the case of legal persons, they must have their registered office and/or secondary headquarters located in their national territory for at least 5 years prior to the listing of the offer of sale; to carry out agricultural activities on national territory for a period of at least 5 years prior to the registration of this offer.
Also, legal persons must have documents showing that from the total income of the last five fiscal years, at least 75% represents income from agricultural activities, and associations have to prove their domicile in the national territory established for a period of at least 5 years prior to the registration of the offer for sale of agricultural land located outside the country. If the shareholder is another legal entity, their associates must provide proof of domicile located in their national territory for a period of at least 5 years prior to the listing of the offer of sale.
Other conditions provided in this legislative initiative for amending and completing the Law no. 17/2014 on the sale of land are concerning the ban on alienation by sale for a period of 15 years from the date of purchase; the sale before the 15th year is done only to the Romanian state; the uniform application of the procedure provided by the normative act on the observance of the pre-emptive right and the extension of the time limits; the establishment of the Single National Register on the movement and destination of agricultural land located outside the country; the conclusion of acts transferring the right to property (payment, constitution as contribution to the share capital of a company or for any other legal act between vineyards transferring or establishing another real right to ensure the possession and use of agricultural land located outside the country, by circumventing Law No. 17/2014, is sanctioned with absolute nullity.