Accepted Paper:

Farmland investment in the post-socialist countryside: investment practices and discourses in the Black Sea region  


Oane Visser (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS))

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses land investment discourses, relating them to investment practices in Europe’s emerging ‘global agricultural powerhouse’; Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. It discusses problems in ‘resource making’, export of ‘best practices’ and subsequent shifts in investor strategies.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyses (global and regional) investment discourses, and relates them to investment practices in the 'emerging agricultural power' of the Black Sea region; notably Russia and Ukraine, with reference also to Romania. The dominant investor discourse has it that land (and food) is becoming scarce, land prices are bound to rise, and that subsequently acquiring land is highly lucrative. This paper shows that investor evaluations of agricultural potential (and risks) focussed predominantly on land characteristics, and 'land' subsequently was reduced to 'soil'. The prime qualities (and subsequent yield potential) of the fertile black earth soil in the region were stressed, while other factors and risks got much less attention. The idea was that introducing global 'best practices' of agribusiness on the fertile and cheap post-socialist soil, would lead to strong growth of productivity, closing yield gaps with the West and rapid land appreciation.

Building on theoretical research on resource/asset making and commodification (e.g. Li; Richardson & Weszkalnys), it is argued that the current land commoditisation process (and related land appreciation) is often not as pervasive and one-directional as commonly perceived by both investors and researchers. While Romania shows ongoing land prices hikes, the research among land investors and brokers in Russia and Ukraine shows that investors, faced with only short-lived land price hikes, now have to shift from 'land banking' to (more intensive) farming.

Panel P041
Farmland as investment in post-Soviet Eurasia: practices, coalitions, moralities