Speculative investments of farmland threatens countryside

Dozens if not hundreds of farmers are facing threat of eviction from land that they have cultivated for many years by landlords who seek to get rid of them to be able to sell the land to people who seek to convert fields for recreation purposes. It’s a phenomenon that has massively pushed up the prices of farmland – fields in some places are now fetching tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of euros.

This development has triggered speculative investments in agricultural land, which in turn then drives prices further up.

Copyright Daniel Cilia
Copyright Daniel Cilia

The threat to farmers – and farmland – intensified last summer when the constitutional court found that the disproportion between annual ground-rent and price of farmland – a field of 5,000 square metres was valued at more than €800,000 – was impinging on the property rights of the owners. The farmers were then evicted, and the case is currently on appeal – the appeal, set to be decided early next year, has given farmers fending against aggressive landowners some respite.

The appeal is being funded by Ghaqda Bdiewa Attivi, an NGO that represents commercial farmers.

This is the greatest problem that agricultural sector has ever faced, it can topple the agricultural industry.

Malcolm Borg, Ghaqda Bdiewa Attivi

Malcolm Borg expressed concern at the reasoning adopted by the court expert in setting a price for agricultural land. He said: “The valuation of the land given by court expert was a measure used to give the price of commercial land. The farmers can never afford to pay a rent that is based on a percentage of the commercial price of land.”

Copyright Daniel Cilia
Copyright Daniel Cilia

The threat being faced by farmers is not only a threat to farmland, it’s also a threat to the countryside as we know it.

Borg also argues that as a country we need to protect agricultural land for the sake of food security. Although it is estimated that up to 80% of food is imported, he says that it is essential to maintain a rump of indigenous crop cultivation that would provide a buffer in cases of external shocks to supply chains or food shortages.

Victor Paul Borg has begun to investigate the farmers’ predicament, as well as the new phenomenon of people wanting to have a pad in the countryside for recreation, with special focus on how this will change the countryside.

Two articles about the court case, the issues, and the appeal have already been published - click on the links below to read these articles.  

Read More: Court battle to save farmland teeters in the balance 

Read More: Saving farmland requires sweeping regulatory and policy reform

Contribute to this journalistic investigation

In the next round of articles, Victor Paul Borg will investigate people going after farmers and ways they are trying to evict them, as well as places where this is happening and what is becoming of those places.

Funding Target: €400

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