- Mr. Staykov, how would you comment on the state of the land market in Bulgaria?

-The land market is stable, there are no signs of turbulence. We expect to have normal growth. The land relations are developing very well in Bulgaria. Better yields are expected, a higher profit for farmers, which is a prerequisite for interest in agricultural land.

-Is there any interest on behalf of foreign investors?

- It would be difficult and unlikely for foreign investors to be interested. One of the reasons is that the most fragmented land in the EU is located in Bulgaria. The plots are not consolidated or irrigated, or if there used to be an irrigation system, these are now destroyed. Also, it would be quite difficult for a foreigner to deal with the current laws related to the use of land. The reason is that such a foreigner, will have to negotiate with other lease holders and/or land tenants, whereabouts and which lands in particular will be granted, because the foreign investor will not actually cultivate the land in its actual physical borders. Therefore, I believe that there is not much pressure on the market, because the real competition in this case comes only from Bulgarians as foreigners from third countries are not allowed to buy land.

- We, as Bulgarians, do we have a reason to fear that foreigners will buy our land?

- I believe, it is good to seek foreign investors, generally speaking. Especially in Tourism, Agriculture and in general, in other industries as well, otherwise, there is no way to develop our economy. The know-how will be introduced in Bulgaria by foreign investments. But they tend to be less and less in Agriculture. Foreigners strive to sell and terminate their investments in Bulgaria. I am referring to buyers of agricultural land mainly from the European Community, as businessmen from the third world, Africa, USA, America, Russia, etc., are not allowed to buy land. They mostly had a speculative attitude towards the land market and they used to buy the land at lower prices. However, five years passed since then and they can now come up with a good profit by selling these arable areas because the land prices have increased. These businessmen now prefer to invest in Romania because the price of land there is lower. As I said, they are such players who do not cultivate the land, but have made investments in it for speculative purpose. They sell it because at this point the land prices are profitable. It is not known what will happen in the next four years because so far the new CAP 2020 does not provide any guarantees as to the amount of subsidies in Bulgaria. If so, the prices of the land can drop.

- What are the main factors for better land prices here?

- First, there should be a consolidation, consolidation of land plots, a comprehensive law for hydromelioration with consolidation. As for irrigation, there was a promise that measures would be taken in the period 2014 to 2020, however, nothing has been initiated yet. Currently, there are not any concrete specific plans either.Also, the European subsidies had to be equalized and adjusted, however, this did not happen. We are now under the influence of Brexit and therefore measures to reduce subsidies are sought.

- You believe that it is not you but the EU is to blamed for not initiating any irrigation measures, is that right?

- I don't know why any such measure have not been started yet. I think it is as much our fault as it is the EU’s. It's our fault that we didn't defend our interests. The fact that there are signed contracts which were supposed to start in 2014 means that we, ourselves, didn't defend our interests. Now Europe is looking for a way to save money. But we need to be proactive about the irrigation issue. For example, climate change and climate warming is already a fact in southern Bulgaria and it is becoming increasingly difficult to grow crops such as sunflower there. The lack of irrigation facilities will make it more and more difficult in time and sooner or later this type of farming will lead to soil erosion. At the moment we have one of the most fertile agricultural lands in the EU. This is because we have recently begun to use different types of fertilizers. Also, the soil is not contaminated and until recently, there were no diseases. They have recently begun to spread, the same like in the other EU countries. How that happens exactly is not for me to say, but probably diseases get into the soil with the seeds and then they must be treated with certain chemicals. Very often on the agricultural seminars it is commented that because we are all in the same community-the EU, there is no way to protect ourselves from such diseases. But in the end, I can't claim that all of this is completely true. However, it is impossible not to notice the fact that certain companies offer a decontamination product long before the arrival of the disease. The most important thing to notice for our soil, is that we have recently treated it with European chemicals. Another point is that our land is the most preserved, which is proved by the taste qualities of fruits and vegetables. We are one of the few countries that can boast with fruits and vegetables with such great taste qualities.

- Considering what you’ve said so far, shall we assume that you urge is to buy Bulgarian seeds?

- I wouldn't say so because we have almost destroyed our research and science institutes, and there's no turning back. We had many institutes, even more than necessary, but our specialists are now working in Serbia in various types of scientific establishments, including seed production. When there are constant redundancies in these establishments, there is no way to continue research and development in Bulgaria. We, the farmers, cannot rely solely on local crop varieties, which are used as part of experimental sowing and therefore it is uncertain what the harvest will be. On the other hand, there is a tendency for Bulgarians to give preference to foreign products rather than choosing the ones produced locally. So for many years, we have refused to appreciate the qualities of local products. For example, a Bulgarian variety of wheat, which does not need any chemical treatment, currently yields less harvest because for many years only few people have used it. Everyone used to prefer the more productive western French varieties of wheat, which very often have a 20-30 percent higher yields.

- Which regions have the highest prices of agricultural land and the lowest ones in Bulgaria?

- The lowest prices are in the Haskovo region where the worst pedo-climatic characteristics are found. The land is very fragmented and parcels of only five acres are common. Typically, there is no rainfall after May each year, consequently, the yields are lower than the ones in central and northern Bulgaria. And the highest prices of agricultural land are in Dobrudja and Silistra.

- What are the agricultural land prices?

-Currently, Silistra and Dobrichagricultural land prices vary between 1400-1500 BGN, on the primary market and in corporate transactions – between 1600 BGN and 1800 BGN. Although there are not many deals there, there is still a misconception that the agricultural land market and trading is active in those regions.

- You said there was a difference between the data of the NSIS and those of the BAALO, is that correct?

- Yes, it's due to certain exceptions. For example, the NSI provides data based on closed deals. This year, there may be deals at high corporate prices and for example one of them could be at 2500 BGN per decar, however, that is not essential. BAALO closes deals at 1500 BGN, 1600 BGN and 1700 BGN per decar. The truth is, in the area itself there is no longer a large supply of farmland available at the market. This is normal since agricultural farming there developed quite early back in time.

- Tell us something about Northwestern Bulgaria?

- There is a boom in the agricultural land market in Vidin. In the area there is a concentration of speculative players, also a great competition, because the land there is treated on a market principle. There is a sharp increase in agricultural land and even a cost surcharge in Vidin region. In Bregovo, for example, prices have always been very high, as well as territories from the region of Vratsa and Montana to the Danube River. There, for example, there are individual agricultural land deals that are highly priced but they have nothing to do with the primary market.

- According to your statistics, what are the prices in Vidin? And in Montana and Vratsa?

- In Zlatiata the prices can reach 1300 BGN, but normal prices are 800 to 1100 BGN, in Montana they start from 900BGN to 1100 BGN. In the semi-mountainous areas, prices are slightly lower. Deals are always negotiated along the Danube, because of the scarce supply.

- Do you think that land consolidation can stop depopulation? I am referring to the examples given during your seminar on how land consolidation in Germany improves infrastructure, houses are painted so people would return to the villages, etc.

- If there is a real land consolidation in which both the State and Europe are involved, there is a chance to save the population in rural areas. Where there are no people, there's nothing/noone to be returned. But for some others, land consolidation could provide a viable opportunity to retain the local village population and to even gradually attract younger people. Land consolidation is the rearrangement of the infrastructure in the whole village, and in the area respectively. It is kind of a guarantee for some structure and order. For example, a smaller parcel with an orchard should not be placed in the middle of a larger, wheat land plot, right? Also, the restoration of municipal and other socially significant buildings is needed, such as Kindergartens, roads, etc. This, together with better support, is expected in the new CAP, to keep local population in the villages and at the same time to attract other people should they wish to live in the countryside. It is vital that young families are presented with decent job opportunities there. In the EU, many member states subsidize their farmers to a much larger scale.. That's because they think that farmers are the ones who make the state more beautiful and look good, and they also provide the food. These processes must be comprehensively developed.

- How long have you been a member of the EU ELO?

- We've been a member of ELO for two years now. This is a very serious organization and together with them we think that we will be able to offer ideas for land consolidation and irrigation. Nowhere can farming be executed successfully without subsidies from the state. ELO provides us with useful information, we believe that they will assist many people. Now we have applied for funding to participate in projects related to ecology and the underdeveloped regions of Bulgaria, but we are still expecting the spheres to be further specified. The future of Europe is strongly connected to protecting the environment and we believe we will help with hydromelioration and land consolidation. ELO can help us solve our problems. There are few NGOs in Bulgaria who participate in such European structures. Many farmers are members of both the ELO and Copa - Kodzheka and most decisions stem from there. This will be environmentally friendly agriculture. We believe that in Bulgaria underdeveloped agricultural land still exist. They are deserted, with bushes and overgrowth which can be cleaned. In a nutshell, these lands could be consolidated into the fund categorized as fields. This will increase the agricultural land of Bulgaria and lead to its consolidation.

Source: http://www.agrotv.bg

How to find us:

Stayko Staykov
0700 800 66
Sliven, Dobri Chintulov Str. 16

Stayko Staykov as an executive director of Staven AD is president of the management board of the Bulgarian Association of Landowners. BAALO is an association with innovative ideas and projects focused in the sphere of agriculture.


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