KIEV: Ukraine’s new prime minister said the government would allow the sale of farmland from next year to boost investment, as critics warned this could lead to a foreign land grab.
The former Soviet country, whose stalling economy has been propped up by Western aid in recent years, is home to some of the largest swathes of cultivated land in Europe.
“We have consulted with farmers and decided to (open the market) from October 1 next year,” Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk told Ukrainian farmers.
The World Bank has said that Ukrainian land is “exceptionally fertile” with one-third of the world’s black soil.
Opening this up for sale could lead to a 1.5 percent GDP boost, it said in a 2017 report.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a popular comedian who was elected president this year, earlier promised to lift the moratorium on agricultural land sales.
An opinion poll this week found 49 percent of people were opposed to the reform, against 30 percent supporting it.
Zelensky tried to abate concerns, saying on Thursday that only Ukrainian companies would be allowed to buy land.
“Horror stories about Arabs, Chinese or aliens who will take out our farmland by railway wagons is nonsense,” he said at a televised meeting alongside Goncharuk.
But the prime minister said foreigners might be able to invest in local companies making purchases.