Parliament passed on June 28 with its second and third readings a bill offering to suspend selling of agricultural land to foreign citizens and legal entities till end of 2014, instead of initially proposed January, 2017.
According to the draft amendment to the law on ownership of agricultural land, suspension should not apply to those land plots, which are already owned by foreign citizens.
The bill instructs the government to improve the land registry and elaborate “unified state policy on rational use and protection of the land resources.”
Lawmaker from GD parliamentary majority group, Gigla Agulashvili, who co-sponsored the bill, says that although there are no precise data on how much of agricultural land is currently owned by foreign citizens or legal entities, but according to some estimations, he said, the figure stands at 30,000 hectares. There are approximately 3 million hectares of agriculture land in the country.
There has been an increased interest in investing in Georgia’s agricultural opportunities since 2012 mostly from Indian farmers. Attracted by inexpensive and fertile land, as well as by lack of red tape, over 2,000 Indian farmers, mainly from the state of Punjab, have reportedly immigrated to Georgia over the past one year after buying agricultural land plots in the country, mainly in its eastern parts.
Explanatory note, accompanying the bill, reads: “As of today there is a real threat of irrational privatization of land, which may have a negative consequence on country’s economic security, environmental protection and state security and it may also significantly damage local rural population.”
The bill has to be signed by President Saakashvili before it goes into force.