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Ukrainian Prime Minister Says Land Market Could Open Up In 2020

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk
Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk says the government could allow the sale of agricultural land from October 2020, after parliament votes to lift the 18-year moratorium.

"We have consulted with farmers and decided to [open the land market] from October 1 next year," Honcharuk told a group of farmers on September 19.

Amid concerns that the move could lead to a foreign land grab, he said that Ukrainians, especially small farmers, would get preferential treatment.

“We’re creating an affordable loan program that will go into effect starting in 2020,” Honcharuk said, expressing hope that the central bank will continue cutting interest rates to make it easier for Ukrainians to buy land.

Speaking at the same meeting, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said concerns that “Chinese, Arabs, or aliens from outer space will come and take our land by railway wagons is nonsense.”

The absence of a land market has favored big agribusinesses and hurt small-scale farmers who can’t use the land as collateral to borrow money.

They also complain that the prices they get for leasing their land is far below the market rates in the EU.

Ukraine has 43 million hectares of arable land containing one-third of the world’s nutrient-rich black soil or chornozem. About 11 million hectares is state-owned.

The country already is a top world grain producer and exporter.

In a 2017 report, the World Bank estimated that Ukraine could see gross domestic product grow by 1.5 percentage points yearly if the land sale ban is lifted.

Based on reporting by AFP and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

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