Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Investing in Ukrainian farmland

Although land tenure is a bureaucratic and tedious affair requiring you to accumulate several meters of box files, once acquired it is secure.

You cannot buy land in Ukraine but you lease it typically on 5 to 10 year leases with the right to renew and first right to buy once the moratorium on land sales is lifted.

Don't hold your breath on the moratorium being lifted anytime soon though, its been in place since 2004, was recently extended to 2016 and is not high up on the agenda for a country with bigger problems to address. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it means you can secure land at a relatively low cost allowing your capital to go in to equipment and stocks. 

To acquire land you often need to pay “key money” which “gives you the right to lease it”.

Better quality land and location is still valued high ($600) but it is perfectly possibly to pick up blocks of good land for $200 per hectare with an annual land rent in the region of $50-100 per hectare paid after harvest and often in grain.

Your landlords will be villagers and your neighbours who have more use for half a tonne of grain to feed their animals than the cash equivalent.

You can pick up a former collective farm of 2-5000ha with a range of buildings in workable condition, import some equipment, talk to a few suppliers and away you go.

The risks are often perceived as great but in my experience they are no greater than anywhere else and manageable once you understand them.

But take advice; what happens in your home country will bear little resemblance to what happens in Ukraine and if you bring your business sense of fair play with you, you will be burnt.

Acquisition prices are low at the moment as many businesses are looking to divest and the current news stories has all but stopped institutional interest. 

It is now possible to pick up a business for 50% of its valuation and if you keep your acquisition costs down then you have more funds available to go farming.

The conflict will pass but the demand for food will continue to rise.