July 18, 2016
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Agenţia olandeză de tranzacţionare a terenurilor agricole Cibus Farmland Club a adăugat recent organizaţiei sale din România o echipă de “consultanţă pentru creşterea randamentului agricol”.  Compania oferă acum acces la o gamă extinsă de cunoştinţe şi experienţa în domeniul agricol prin asocierea cu o gamă largă de companii olandeze active pe plan mondial. “În ultimii ani multi investitori şi operatori agricoli internaţionali au cerut mai mult decât doar servicii de identificare a terenurilor şi oportunităţilor de investiţii în domeniul agriculturii sau servicii de due diligenţa”, declară Peter Beerents, CEO al Cibus Farmland Club din Bucureşti.

“Nu am acceptat niciodată clienţi al căror singur interes este acapararea terenurilor, pentru ca ulterior să aştepte doar aprecierea lor în timp. Noi am cerut mereu clienţilor nostrii să îşi desfăşoare activitatea în mod sustenabil şi responsabil din punct de vdere social, cu scopul de a dezvolta şi de a contribui la sectorul agricol din România. Astfel, pentru cei care doresc să îşi dezvolte randamentul agricol, am compus un grup format din cei mai buni şi de renume ingineri agricoli, consultanţi şi furnizori din Olanda pentru a asista la îmbunătăţirea infrastructurii şi creşterea producţiei agricole.” Coaliţia, care este alcatuită din sute de experţi, ţinteşte dezvoltarea unei game variate de proiecte, oferind o gama largă de servicii. Agronomie, educaţie, dezvoltarea infrastructurii, managementul apei, tehnologii moderne pentru sere,  accesare fonduri europene, toate acestea fac parte din oferta de servicii. “Deoarece România deţine o imensă comoară de bunuri agricole care trebuie dezvoltate, şi deoarece tot mai multe fonduri devin disponibile pentru domeniul agricol, era deja necesar ca olandezii să se organizeze în mod corespunzator. Astfel, am lansat o platformă specială, pentru a face viţa mai uşoară pentru toata lumea”, spune Beerents.

”Observăm că mulţi manageri de ferma din România se zbat să găsească soluţii în străinătate pentru problemele lor tehnice sau financiare. De acum este mai simplu: se pot adresa unui singur birou. Îşi descriu problema, apoi noi selectăm experţii relevanţi, şi le oferim clienţilor acces la cunoştinţe şi tehnologii olandeze de ultima oră”. Biroul din Bucureşti co-administrează orice tip de  interacţiune între clienţi şi experţii implicaţi, fie ca e vorba de o simplă livrare de instrumente sau de management la cheie a unor proiect de dezvoltare majore.

Pentru mai multe informaţii, puteti accesa; www.cibusfarmlandclub.com sau ne puteti contacta telefonic la +40 732 022 844.

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Louisa Burwood-Taylor
June 30, 2015
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Following on from an editor’s letter about Romania’s farmland investment market last month, and a reply from Carl Atkins, director at Terravost a few weeks ago, Peter Beerents, chief executive of Cibus Farmland Club delves deeper into the market’s fundamentals.

Cibus Farmland Club is a procurement and investment management firm offering Romanian farmland investments to a range of investors globally.

What is the demand like for Romania farmland now? Who and where are these investors?
The demand varies by the characteristics of the investor. We distinguish interested investors in the following way:

  • Small, private investors. They are aiming for land appreciation and just require an operator to provide a decent leasing return during their investment term.
  • Professional private investors and family offices (mostly with agricultural backgrounds). They are also aiming for land appreciation and a decent lease return but intend to increase in size through further land consolidation.
  • True agricultural investors like food traders looking for both land and crops, also outsourcing the farming part to an operator but taking up the crops. Willing to expand through future land consolidation.
  • Farming companies and agribusiness looking for land investment and crop yields. They take care of their own operations and expansion by land consolidation. Willing to expand through future land consolidation.
  • Institutional investors mostly require large deal sizes that cannot be easily found in one deal in Romania. So this can mean that they consider land consolidation as too big a hassle and risk because there are only a few dozen relatively consolidated and cultivated farms of up to 4,000 hectares. The majority is a lot of fragmented small parcels. As such, we have not seen
    institutional capital flow into Romanian farmland yet.

To give you an idea, ‘bigger’ plots measure between 500 hectares and 1,000 hectares of consolidated land if a buyer is lucky. And the freehold farms that are properly cultivated and developed by Western European farmers measuring between 1,500 and 6,000 are few and far between; you might find two dozen of them for sale in the current pipeline.

The investors are mostly from Western Europe and the US generally. Some Chinese and Gulf countries investors are also interested, but they are not so visible. Generally, they are either relatively small private investment groups targeting several thousands of hectares or large agricultural investment groups targeting at least 10,000 hectares or more.

Are investors more interested in buyandlease than ownandoperate? Why?
The first step is buyandlease until a certain economy of scale of operations can be reached. Afterwards, ownandoperate seems to be the rule. But again, this depends on the type of investor. Ownandoperate will require the most dedicated involvement but lead to the best yields and farmland development.

Buyandlease can provide interesting returns but only provided the investor obtains a solid deal with an experienced and committed operator; this is one of the main challenges to the strategy in Romania. This is why we tend to offer saleandleaseback in investment opportunities only to our clients where the existing farmland owner wants to continue operating his or her land, and/or could even maintain a stake in the land.

Big contract farmers do not get excited about moving staff and machinery for just one small farm of 1,500 or 4,000 hectares, so the best scenario is to look for farmers who wish to cash in on their cultivated, consolidated plots, and lease the land back. The big additional benefit of these kinds of scenarios is that these farmers are well connected in their own region, which contributes a lot to
the feasibility of future land swapping and consolidation.

What are the current challenges to investing in Romanian farmland?
– Separating wheat from the chaff when it comes to selecting business partners and agents.
– Securing ownership rights during procurement.
– Finding good cultivated and consolidated farmlands and options to lease surrounding plots with an option to buy, in all cases with a solid and fully committed operator that provides an acceptable annual lease return.
– Pay special attention to drought in the south.

The preemption right of farmers currently farming the land is another big challenge. They can receive pretty easy loans from local banks interested in financing acquisitions. The repayment of the loan is generally guaranteed with the land plot itself and with the future amounts to be received as subsidies by the respective farmer, which is generally accepted by the banks as a very solid guarantee. Such right to receive subsidy is assigned in favour of the bank as collateral purpose.

How has the Ukraine crisis developed in terms of investor sentiment?
I see no impact on investment in Romanian farmland as a result of Ukraine crisis. Although I have heard of the typical American yelling: ‘Peter, Central Europe is off the table here, Putin is already at the border!’

But still Romania’s grain exports are on the rise and exports to Egypt have never been bigger. I think most investors understand what it means to be a NATO member and do not underestimate the geopolitical value of Romania. So no real change in investor sentiment here so far.

What opportunities exist to invest in other parts of the agri supply chain?
As a company, we are also focusing on silo storage as an exciting real estate investment opportunity. With food production on the rise throughout the country, we have noticed an enormous growing lack of silo storage in some parts of the country. Poor roads, a lack of trucks and a shortage of local storage are leaving many frustrated farmers behind when harvesting. They are forced to sell at low prices. This offers new opportunities, also because the European Union is expected to increase the nonrefundable subsidies for food storage of the 20142020 financing programme, specifically providing exciting extra returns.

What investment structures work best for these types of agri infra assets?
We at Cibus Farmland Club advocate full flexibility to investors, in terms of holding period and taxation. If investors wish to accommodate their assets in a private equity type fund vehicle, or search for coinvestors alongside others, that’s fine with us. We will then advise, establish and manage. If they prefer to hold assets in their own holding entities, we can provide procurement services and carry out the asset management for them. With us, anything goes according to investors’ requirements. What works best is to determine the best for the investor, depending on his or her characteristics and investment strategy.

How has the agri investment landscape changed since you started working on this?
Apart from land appreciation nothing else has really changed on the farmland side. We have happily noticed more and more professional agriculture investors coming into the sector instead of the privately dreaming individuals that broached the sector a few years ago.

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Dutch Romanian Network – http://www.dutchromaniannetwork.nl/
Ron Schutte
8 April, 2015
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Onlangs kocht één van de grootste Amerikaanse graanbedrijven Archer-Daniel-Midland twee terminals in de haven van Constanta voor 90 miljoen euro.Men bezat reeds aandelen in de Roemeense bedrijven die voorheen de bezitters van de terminal waren. Beide terminals, respectievelijk derde en vierde in grootte van de haven, verwerken 500 ton graan.
Doordat ook reeds toonaangevende bedrijven zoals het Duitse AIS Europe en de andere Amerikaanse bedrijven CHS en Gargill ook reeds voor Constanta hebben gekozen, wordt volgens de analisten van Bloomberg Constanta als tweede graanknoopunt ter wereld gezien.

De Roemeense directeur James Hysop van de Europese Bank Wederopbouw en Ontwikkeling(EBRD) constateert dat ook omliggende landen zoals Bulgarije, Hongarije en Servië die een toenemende graanexport kennen, voor Constanta kiezen.Een belemmering voor de groei van de haven van Constanta is de beperkte bevaarbaarheid van de Donau(achterland functie), aldus Peter Beerents, CEO van het Nederlands-Roemeense bedrijf Cibus Farmland Club.

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Agerpres – Constantin Balaban
October 24, 2014
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Fondul german ASI Europe GmbH are deja 4.000 de hectare în România, fondul olandez Cibus Farmland Club dezvoltă și el un proiect agricol iar fondul britanic Velcourt Group Plc a anunțat și el anul trecut că va face o investiție în România.

Potrivit datelor furnizate de firma britanică Savills Plc, în 2012 un hectar de teren arabil în România costa, în medie, 6.461 de dolari, comparativ cu 18.521 de dolari în Germania și 25.575 de dolari în Marea Britanie. Problema este suprafața mică a exploatațiilor agricole din România, 3,4 hectare în medie comparativ cu 14,2 hectare cât reprezintă media din UE și 53,9 hectare în Franța, cel mai mare producător agricol comunitar.

‘Dacă vrei să continui să crești, singura modalitatea este consolidarea terenului arabil’, a declarat directorul Cibus Land Management Srl, Peter Beerents. ‘Atunci când mai multe loturi mici sunt unificate într-o suprafață mai mare, valoarea se dublează’, adaugă Peter Beerents.

Savills Plc susține că în perioada 2002-2012 prețul terenurilor agricole din România a crescut, în medie, cu 40%, dublu față de media globală, în timp ce valoarea terenurilor agricole din Franța și Germania a crescut cu 5% respectiv 10% pe an.

Potrivit lui Peter Beerents, având în vedere creșterea interesului investitorilor pentru terenurile arabile din România, este posibil ca reforma terenurilor să se termine în următorii cinci ani. ‘Consolidarea terenurilor este fezabilă din punct de vedere tehnic și financiar’, susține Beerents. Acesta a adăugat însă că, pentru a putea obține o suprafață de 5.000 de hectare în România, un investitor trebuie să negocieze cu cel puțin 500 până la 1.000 de familii. Potrivit Eurostat, în 2010 România avea 7,05 milioane mici fermieri, 30% din totalul UE, în condițiile în care terenul arabil din România reprezintă 7,6% din totalul terenului agricol în folosință.

Producția de grâu în România este la jumătate față de cea din Franța și Germania. Fragmentarea terenurilor agricole din România afectează productivitatea în timp ce micii fermieri utilizează prea puține îngrășăminte și nu au tractoare, susține decanul Facultății de Agronomie, Toma Dinu. Potrivit datelor furnizate de International Fertilizer Industry Association, fermierii români utilizează, în medie, 49 de kilograme de îngrășăminte per hectar în 2012, mai puțin de jumătate decât cele 113 kilograme în Franța. În timp ce producția medie de grâu în România este de 3,2 tone la hectar, în Franța este de 7,16 tone iar în Germania de 7,65 tone.

Miljan Zdrale, senior banker la Banca Europeană pentru Reconstrucție și Dezvoltare (BERD), crede că prin utilizarea terenului arabil existent și îmbunătățirea productivității la un nivel comparabil cu cel din statele avansate, volumul producției agricole al României ar putea crește cu cel puțin 30%.

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Bloomberg – Rudy Ruitenberg
October 24, 2014
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Romania Farmland Costing Fraction of U.K. Lures Investors

 

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) — Investment managers putting money into Romania’s farms are paying a fraction of prices in Germany or the U.K., buying the potential to boost yields by joining fragmented plots and improving farming methods.

German farm manager ASI Europe GmbH oversees about 4,000 hectares (9,884 acres) in Romania, the Netherlands’ Cibus Farmland Club is developing a farm project there and U.K.-based Velcourt Group Plc announced last year it was entering the country. A hectare of Romanian farmland cost an average $6,461 in 2012, compared with $18,521 in Germany and $25,575 in the U.K., data from U.K. realtor Savills Plc show.

Romania has the European Union’s most divided farmland ownership, with 3.86 million farms in 2010 that made up 31 percent of the EU total, a legacy of the 1989 overthrow of communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and land restitution that followed. The average size of a Romanian farm was 3.4 hectares, compared with the EU average of 14.2 hectares and 53.9 hectares for France, the bloc’s biggest agricultural producer.

“If you want to continue to grow, land consolidation is the only way,” Peter Beerents, chief executive officer of Cibus Land Management Srl, said in e-mailed comments on Oct. 22. “When small plots can be added to a larger whole, in general the value doubles.”

Romanian farmland prices on average rose about 40 percent a year between 2002 and 2012, double the global average, according to Savills. The value of French and German farmland on average increased 5 percent to 10 percent a year.

Land Reform
Growing investor interest in Romanian farms means land reform there may be completed within the next five years, according to Beerents. Land consolidation “is technically and financially feasible,” Beerents said.

A plot of uncultivated wasteland in Romania of 1 to 5 hectares was worth 1,900 euros ($2,432) a hectare last year, compared with 3,900 euros a hectare for a larger plot that had been in production for more than three years, Cibus data show. Prices could double in five to six years, Beerents says.

Romania had 7.05 million family farm laborers in the 2010 census, 30 percent of the EU total, while the country’s farmland accounts for 7.6 percent of agricultural land in use, Eurostat data show.

The number of landowners means expanding a corporate farm in the country to 5,000 hectares, a size that allows for maximum efficiency, may require years of negotiations with “easily” 500 to 1,000 family members, Beerents said.

“Subsistence Farms”
“Half the area is made up of subsistence farms unable to access good technology,” said Toma Dinu, dean of the Faculty of Management of the University of Agronomic Science in Bucharest. “It’s a secondary occupation, they can’t farm efficiently.”

Wheat yields in Romania have risen since 2003 and are still less than half those in France and Germany. The fragmented nature of Romanian agriculture hurts productivity, and family farmers use too little fertilizer and lack machinery, Dinu said.

Romanian farmers used an average 49 kilograms (108 pounds) of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium fertilizer per hectare in 2012, less than half the 113 kilograms applied in France, based on data from the International Fertilizer Industry Association.

“There’s still a way to go,” said Peter Falkenstein, a senior consultant at ASI, which has bought more than 25,000 hectares of land in Romania for investors since 1999. “The soils have deteriorated over the past 20 years. This takes time, getting soils back to good productivity.”

Danube Water
A communist-era irrigation system using Danube water is too costly because of energy use, and has fallen into disrepair, Dinu said. That leaves farmers dependent on rainfall, making weather the limiting factor for Romanian grain production.

Romanian farming benefited from the country’s 2007 entry into the EU, as subsidies made working the land more financially rewarding and attracted investors, Dinu said. Agriculture subsidies rose to 1.68 billion euros in 2012 from 1.61 billion euros the previous year and 575 million euros in 2010, Eurostat data shows.

Romania’s five-year average wheat yield has risen to 3.2 tons per hectare from 2.92 tons in 2003. In contrast, French farmers on average gathered 7.16 tons of soft wheat per hectare in the past five years and Germany averaged 7.65 tons, EU data show. Romania gathered 7.52 million tons of wheat this year compared with 7.28 million tons last year, Eurostat data show. France’s soft-wheat production will be 37.37 million tons, crop office FranceAgriMer estimated last month.

Foreign investors in the fields of Romania brought spending on machinery, use of improved seeds and innovation in cultivation, such as minimal tilling, according to Dinu.

Using existing arable land and lifting yields for key commodities closer to those of more advanced countries, Romania could boost production volumes by at least 30 percent, according to Miljan Zdrale, a senior banker at the the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

“It’s a stable country, it has Black Sea access, it’s an EU country,” Zdrale said. “The potential is there, that is the bottom line.”

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Nineoclock Business –  www.nineoclock.ro
October 19, 2014
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Constanta port is emerging as Europe’s biggest grain transport hub in the $4.2 billion global wheat trade, according Bloomberg.

Buoyed by booming wheat and corn exports from Romania and its neighbors to the Middle East, grain volume passing through theport was up 30 percent by August from a year earlier and will top last year’s record by year end, according to port spokeswoman Monica Velicu. Cargill Inc., the largest closely held U.S. company, and freight handler Transport Trade Services SA more than doubled grain capacity at their Canopus Star terminal at Constanta in August.

Shippers sent a record 533 Panamaxes and other dry bulk carriers to Constanta’s deep-water berths in 2013, a 21 percent increase from the previous year, port data show. Rising crop yields in Romania,Bulgaria and Hungary, along with new silos and terminals to handle the growing grain flow to Egypt, have vaulted the port ahead of Rouen, France as Europe’s grain hub.

“Output of grains has gradually increased in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia,” James Hyslop, director for Romania at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, said in an e-mailed reply to questions on Oct. 9. “Constanta port was the main facility to benefit. It’s the only large port with sufficient capacity to serve the region.”

Constanta handled 9.5 million tons of grain through August, up 30 percent from 7.3 million tons a year earlier. Volume will top last year’s record 15.3 million tons by year end, according to Velic. Wheat futures traded in Paris dropped 22 percent this year on plentiful supplies.

The Romanian port exported 8.7 million tons of grain last year, up from 5.39 million in 2012. Rouen, France’s busiest grain hub, exported 7.35 million tons in 2013, compared with 5.45 million tons the prior year, port data show.

“Grain exports will only continue to grow,” said Peter Beerents, chief executive officer of Cibus Farmland Club, a Dutch adviser setting up its third Romanian farm for family investors. “This is a land with a lot of natural riches.”

Constanta has an edge getting to the Egyptian grain market, the world’s biggest. Egypt’s grain port of El Dekheila is a trip of 1,188 nautical miles, or 3.5 days at sea at an average 14 knots, according toports.com. That compares to 1,393 nautical miles from Odessa and 1,576 nautical miles from Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, trips of 4.1 and 4.7 days.

Constanta ranked as the EU’s ninth-biggest dry bulk port by tonnage in 2012, behind Italy’s Taranto and the Belgian port of Antwerp, Eurostat data show. Rotterdam led the list.

Romania’s rising grain exports and improving logistics have coincided with rising investment by Cargill, ADM and CHS, all of which own or have stakes in Constanta grain-export terminals, according to the port. ADM is the world’s largest corn processor, and CHS is the largest U.S. grain cooperative.

The Port of Constanta is located at the crossroads of the trade routes linking the markets of the landlocked European countries to Transcaucasus, Central Asia and the Far East. The port has excellent connections with the Central and Eastern European countries through the Corridor IV (rail and road), Corridor VII – Danube (inland waterway), to which it is linked by the Danube-Black Sea Canal, and Corridor IX (road), which passes through Bucharest. The two satellite ports Midia and Mangalia that are located not far from Constanta Port are part of the Romanian maritime port system under the coordination of Maritime Ports Administration SA Constanta.

The Port of Constanta is one of the main distribution centers for the Central and Eastern Europe, offering many advantages, of which mention must be made of: * Multi-purpose port with modern facilities and sufficient water depths in the port basins to accommodate the largest vessels passing through the Suez Canal; * Direct access to the Central and Eastern European countries through the Pan-European Corridor VII – the Danube; * A hub for the container traffic in the Black Sea; *  Good connections with all modes of transport: railway, road, river, airway and pipelines; *  Customs facilitations for commercial operations performed through the Port of Constanta; *  Modern facilities for passenger vessels; * Land availability for future expansion; * Since 1st January 2007, the Port of Constanta has become Free Zone.

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The Romania Journal – Anca Bernovici
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Constanta, on its way to be Europe’s biggest grain transport hub

Romania, now the top wheat supplier to Egypt’s state grain agency after wresting contracts from Russia and France, has attracted farm managers such as Germany’s AIS Europe GmbH, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., CHS Inc., Cargill Inc.

The Romanian port exported 8.7 million tons of grain last year, up from 5.39 million in 2012. Rouen, France’s busiest grain hub, exported 7.35 million tons in 2013, compared with 5.45 million tons the prior year, port data show. Constanta handled 9.5 million tons of grain through August, up 30 percent from 7.3 million tons a year earlier. Volume will top last year’s record 15.3 million tons by year end, according to port spokeswoman Monica Velic, bloomberg.com informs. “Buoyed by booming wheat and corn exports from Romania and its neighbors to the Middle East, grain volume passing through the port was up 30 percent by August from a year earlier and will top last year’s record by year end,”, Velic said. Cargill Inc., the largest closely held U.S. company, and freight handler Transport Trade Services more than doubled grain capacity at their Canopus Star terminal at Constanta in August.

“Grain exports will only continue to grow,” said Peter Beerents, chief executive officer of Cibus Farmland Club, a Dutch adviser setting up its third Romanian farm for family investors. “This is a land with a lot of natural riches.”

All these make from Constanta to be emerging as Europe’s biggest grain transport hub in the USD 4.2 billion global wheat trade, Bloomberg’s analysts appreciate.

“Output of grains has gradually increased in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia,” James Hyslop, director for Romania at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, said recently. “Constanta port was the main facility to benefit. It’s the only large port with sufficient capacity to serve the region.” Constanta’s potential remains curbed by lack of navigability of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river after the Volga, according to Beerents of Cibus Farmland Club and Toma Dinu, dean of the faculty of management at Bucharest’s University of Agronomical Sciences.

Constanta ranked as the EU’s ninth-biggest dry bulk port by tonnage in 2012, behind Italy’s Taranto and the Belgian port of Antwerp, Eurostat data show. Rotterdam led the list.

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Bloomberg – Rudy Ruitenberg
October 17, 2014
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Cargill’s Black Sea Stop Is Booming 2,600-Year-Old Port

Friday, October 17, 2014 09:12 am

by Rudy Ruitenberg/ Bloomberg News

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) — Constanta, whose natural harbor on the Black Sea has welcomed ships since at least the sixth century B.C., is emerging as Europe’s biggest grain transport hub in the $4.2 billion global wheat trade.

Buoyed by booming wheat and corn exports from Romania and its neighbors to the Middle East, grain volume passing through the port was up 30 percent by August from a year earlier and will top last year’s record by year end, according to port spokeswoman Monica Velic. Cargill Inc., the largest closely held U.S. company, and freight handler Transport Trade Services more than doubled grain capacity at their Canopus Star terminal at Constanta in August.

Shippers sent a record 533 Panamaxes and other dry bulk carriers to Constanta’s deep-water berths in 2013, a 21 percent increase from the previous year, port data show. Rising crop yields in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, along with new silos and terminals to handle the growing grain flow to Egypt, have vaulted the port ahead of Rouen, France as Europe’s grain hub.

“Output of grains has gradually increased in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia,” James Hyslop, director for Romania at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, said in an e-mailed reply to questions on Oct. 9. “Constanta port was the main facility to benefit. It’s the only large port with sufficient capacity to serve the region.”

Egypt Deal
Romania, now the top wheat supplier to Egypt’s state grain agency after wresting contracts from Russia and France, has attracted farm managers such as Germany’s AIS Europe GmbH as well as agricultural companies Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and CHS Inc.

Constanta handled 9.5 million tons of grain through August, up 30 percent from 7.3 million tons a year earlier. Volume will top last year’s record 15.3 million tons by year end, according to Velic. Wheat futures traded in Chicago dropped 14 percent this year on plentiful global supplies.

The Romanian port exported 8.7 million tons of grain last year, up from 5.39 million in 2012. Rouen, France’s busiest grain hub, exported 7.35 million tons in 2013, compared with 5.45 million tons the prior year, port data show.

Soft wheat output in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary rose to a combined 17.7 million tons from 7.4 million tons a decade earlier, when the region suffered a drought. Corn output climbed to 20.8 million tons from 15.3 million tons in the period.

‘Natural Riches’
“Grain exports will only continue to grow,” said Peter Beerents, chief executive officer of Cibus Farmland Club, a Dutch adviser setting up its third Romanian farm for family investors. “This is a land with a lot of natural riches.”

Most of the grains moving through the port are being shipped to countries in the Middle East, and traders are benefiting from a surplus of vessels seeking the cargoes. The cost of carrying about 50,000 tons of grain to Egypt from Constanta averaged $12.63 a ton this year, down from $13.01 a year earlier.

In the last two months 138 dry bulk ships signalled having berthed at the port, according to data gathered by IHS Maritime, a Coulsdon, U.K.-based company, and collated by Bloomberg. More than half were Handysizes and around a quarter were Panamax ships. Constanta also ships scrap metal and coal as well as grains and other commodities on dry bulk ships.

Egypt’s Global Authority for Supply Commodities agreed to buy 600,000 tons of grain from Romania since July 1, more than the 525,000 tons it’s buying from Russia and 380,000 tons from France. Constanta’s berths, with depths of as much as 13 meters, can handle the Panamax-sized vessels demanded by GASC.

Shorter Trip
Constanta has an edge getting to the Egyptian grain market, the world’s biggest. Egypt’s grain port of El Dekheila is a trip of 1,188 nautical miles, or 3.5 days at sea at an average 14 knots, according to ports.com. That compares to 1,393 nautical miles from Odessa and 1,576 nautical miles from Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, trips of 4.1 and 4.7 days.

The top four dry-bulk shippers from Constanta in the past two months were Polska Zegluga Morska PP, National Navigation Co, Lebanese Shipping Union and Samos Steamship Co., together taking 18 cargoes from the port in the period.

Fertile plains and black earth soils made the region that is now Romania a supplier of wheat to the Byzantium Empire in the 9th century and a dominant Black Sea wheat exporter in the 19th.

Constanta’s potential remains curbed by lack of navigability of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river after the Volga, according to Beerents of Cibus Farmland Club and Toma Dinu, dean of the faculty of management at Bucharest’s University of Agronomical Sciences.

Trade Hurdles
“At certain times of the year the river is so shallow that navigation is limited above certain tonnages,” said Beerents. “There are a lot of EU funds to tackle that, but they’re not being spent on deepening the river.”

Even with limited Danube access, most of Romania’s grain is transported to Constanta by train or truck, Dinu said. Boosting the river’s summer navigability and developing fluvial ports would allow for exports to rise further, he said.

Growth of trade in Romania also faces hurdles including delays in clearing exports, the quality of the country’s roads as well as crime, according to a 2013 report by a Romanian regional development agency. A survey of exporters found more than 30 percent reported criminal activity such as stolen cargo that was often or nearly always a cause in case of major delays.

Constanta ranked as the EU’s ninth-biggest dry bulk port by tonnage in 2012, behind Italy’s Taranto and the Belgian port of Antwerp, Eurostat data show. Rotterdam led the list.

Romania’s rising grain exports and improving logistics have coincided with rising investment by Cargill, ADM and CHS, all of which own or have stakes in Constanta grain-export terminals, according to the port. ADM is the world’s largest corn processor, and CHS is the largest U.S. grain cooperative.

“In the past you only had some local Romanian grain traders, focused on local markets,” said Peter Falkenstein, a director at German farmland manager AIS Europe GmBH, which has operated in the country since 1999. “Nowadays you have the possibility to choose.”

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Agri Investor – http://www.agriinvestor.com
Louisa Burwood-Taylor
July 10, 2014
Link to article

 

Dutch farmland club launches Romanian JV

By Louisa Burwood-Taylor on 10 JULY 2014

A consortium of Dutch agriculture professionals has created a boutique Romanian farmland investment management firm — Cibus Farmland Club — and is targeting small to medium-sized investors in an effort to raise between  €50 million and €100 million over the next two years.

It has centred its investment model on the characteristics of Romania’s agriculture industry that it believes, in turn, fit well with the demands of small to medium-sized investors, according to Peter Beerents, chief executive of Cibus Farmland Club.

“The problem for most family offices is that they have no experience in this asset class and are afraid to invest for that reason,” he told Agri Investor. “But if investors aim to profit utmost from the current land appreciation they should move into the market rapidly,” he added, pointing to a 12 percent increase in the value of large plots of land over the past year and an increase of between 20 percent and 40 percent for smaller plots of land.

Land aggregation is one major source of farmland returns in Romania, according to Beerents.

“Romanian farmland is very fragmented and this is the reason why prices are so low compared to the rest of Europe,” he told Agri Investor. “But if you add a small plot onto an existing farm it is instantly doubled in price.”

Cibus therefore plans to buy existing farms and add uncultivated land onto them in order to produce cash flows from day one, enabling a shorter time frame, but also to dramatically increase the value of the total plot of land.

Cibus will also add value through its “own, operate and flex lease” model, which is a combination of the buy-and-lease and own-and-operate models.

Under this system, a farmer is leased the land but under the supervision of DLV Plant. The consultancy firm, which was the former consultancy extension of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, will help the farmer to improve the land he is working on in order to increase yields. If the crops yield revenues over the standard local average, the farmer will pay a higher rental rate equivalent to a 30 percent cut of the above-average yield. Improvements will mostly be in land structure, soil quality and machinery.

“Most farmland investors leave the farmer on his own to work it out for himself, but we think it is better to use reserve money to help him improve the land quality first,” said Beerents, adding that the hope is that a large institutional investor will provide an exit opportunity at the end.

The firm believes it will make investments on a separate account basis for family offices and other private capital for the most part, and each account is likely to be between €10 million and €30 million in size. Deploying larger amounts in Romania is difficult, argues Beerents.

“You need a lot of available land to manage an institutional-size mandate; there are probably just 100 farms that are bigger than 1,500 hectares so it would take a lot of time and negotiation to get a land parcel big enough,” he told Agri Investor. “I can’t handle a €150m mandate to be invested at short notice and am surprised that others say they can.”

And while Cibus would set up a fund if requested to by an investor, the firm is happy to keep working with the small to medium-sized investor group for the time being.

“Such an intensive engagement is impossible for us to supply on a large scale for huge institutional investors looking for giant tickets. We’d now rather target entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals, family offices and wealth managers,” he said. “Institutional investors also require a certified fund management firm and we are farmers and farmland agents, so the match is not really there.”

Cibus is attracting farmers to migrate from the Netherlands and has had a strong response to the project from farmers willing to leave Holland, according to Beerents. But the firm is also keen to involve the local community and will launch some learning programmes for local farmers to help them improve their yields.

“You might run into political resistance from the local community but if you are responsible and socially involved you are more likely to get cooperation,” said Beerents. “For example, you can turn farms into knowledge centres by providing training programmes on increasing crop yields and modern techniques; the local farming community can benefit from your presence. And this will encourage cooperation in the land-acquisition phase.”

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bne – Businessneweurope – Clare Nuttall
June 19, 2014

Fears of land grab in Romania as global investors take root

Drawn by the prospect of rising land prices as much as Romania’s fertile soil and good climate, foreign investors started snapping up farmland long before the country joined the EU. Recently, the profile of those investors has started to change, with small-scale European buyers, many of them farmers, being replaced by institutional investors – a shift that has sparked fears among Romanian farmers of a land grab.

An estimated 3m hectares of Romanian farmland is now owned by foreign investors. While this is still a relatively small share of the country’s 14m ha of arable land, of which only around 10m is in use, it has been enough to raise concerns among Romanian farmers worried about being priced out of the market.

Recent entrants to Romania include Southern Harvest, part of US-based Anholt Investments, which announced in April that it had acquired around 6,000 ha of agricultural land, producing crops including wheat, corn, mustard and sunflower seeds, in two separate deals. The acquisitions bring Southern Harvest’s global portfolio to 29,000 ha, the majority of that in Paraguay and Uruguay. “We find Romania to be an exciting jurisdiction, both in terms of the quality of the land and the nature of the commercial opportunity. We look forward to continuing our growth in Romania, as well as in South America,” said Anholt partner Rudolph Krediet in a statement.

Anholt is an example of the major institutional investors that now have Romania in their sights; other entrants include the US-based Black Sea Agriculture and Dutch-held Rabo Farm, a division of Rabobank. “Investors from both the Middle East and North America have shown an interest in Romania, as part of strategies to diversify their agricultural portfolios. Those that include the European theatre in their portfolios, alongside America and Australia, are typically looking to the [Central and Eastern European] region,” says Adam Oliver of agricultural consultancy Brown & Co, which is active in several CEE countries. “Most view Romania and Poland as being the most important markets. Further east outside the EU, risk levels quadruple or more.”

Top topsoil
The growing popularity of Romania among international investors has resulted in prices more than doubling between 2007 – the year Romania entered the EU – and 2012, a DTZ Echinox survey says. However, at €2,000-6,000 per ha, land prices are still well below those in Western Europe or even earlier EU entrants such as Poland, and a steady increase is therefore expected.

Romania also benefits from the ability to produce commodity crops. Its several climatic zones allow it to produce a variety of crops, as does the famously fertile “chernozem” black topsoil on around 60% of its territory. As a result, “Agriculture is an important sector in the Romanian economy, contributing between 7% – 10% of GDP, depending on the year and climatic conditions. Given the resources used, however, this is well below its potential contribution,” the DTZ Echinox report says.

This is partly due to the high degree of fragmentation in Romanian land ownership. Much of the country’s farmland is split into parcels as small as 0.2 ha when land was handed out after the collapse of communism. Investors are now parceling up small segments of land – a lengthy but potentially lucrative process.

Peter Beerents of Cibus Farmland Club, a group of Dutch agricultural companies active in Romania, considers the country is “still at the beginning of a big reconstruction” requiring both capital and technical know-how, much of which will be provided by foreign investors. “We believe the land consolidation of the majority of the numerous small land plots will be completed within some five years from now… thus leading to a better economy of scale and improved crop yields,” Beerents tells bne.

With little investment over the last several decades, Romania needs new grain storage and handling systems, irrigation systems and land drainage – a shortfall some foreign investors are now addressing.

Cibus’ aim is to set up well-performing farms in Romania to contribute to agricultural redevelopment. “In order to maximize returns we push them up in three ways; when it comes to land appreciation we consolidate fragmented land plots and add them to the existing farms we initially invested in,” according to Beerents. “These small land plots increase in value as soon as they have been added to the large blocks of our farm in operation. Also we invest some 15% of the total investment in improvement of soil quality and storage. And we get heavily involved in the management and farming operations in order to get a substantial increase in crop yields, thus also leading to higher land value.’

However, while risks have fallen since Romania’s entry to the EU, there is no lack of cautionary tales of fraudsters preying in particular off small-scale investors in the real estate sector. Related risks for land purchases include confusion over land titles and competing claims to land parcels from creditors or former owners.

The opening of the Romanian market to foreign buyers – from January 1 this year foreign individuals have been able to directly purchase farmland – has also added to political risks by sparking fears of a land grab by foreigners. This is a common theme around the world, as both governments and private investors seek to secure productive farmland.

Even Romania’s president, Traian Basescu, weighed into the debate in May 2013, saying that mass land purchases by foreigners were putting the domestic agricultural sector at risk, and advising land owners not to sell. “If we like to believe that we don’t sell our country, then I would like to see Romanians not selling their land. This is the first condition to prevent the land being sold,” Basescu told the annual meeting of the Romanian Agricultural Producers’ League, according to Business Review Romania.

The further opening of the market to foreign investors has made the question of land ownership – a growing concern across several continents – a hot political issue in Romania. During a year of first European and later presidential elections, politicians have sought to drum up support by proposing new limits on foreign land purchases.

However, Olover points out that Romania remains “at the more open end of the spectrum” in terms of attitudes to foreign land ownership. Restricting purchases by foreign buyers would in any case require a renegotiation of Romania’s EU accession treaty, meaning that the current political grandstanding is “largely meaningless.”

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