Romania posts record harvest as mega-deals loom

A UAE investor and a CEE-focused fund are preparing to transact in a market that is also in the crosshairs of TIAA’s Westchester.

One of the hottest markets in Central and Eastern Europe has posted 2017 crop statistics that suggest a boom in output despite shrinking cereal-producing land.

Romania’s out-performance was particularly remarkable in sunflower seed production, which jumped 43 percent on 2016 to the highest level in the EU. But other crops followed suit, with maize and wheat respectively increasing by 33 percent and 17 percent. Overall, cereal production was up 12.4 percent, despite a near-7 percent decrease in the surface of land cultivated for grain.

Soya bean production and rapeseed were up by 39 percent and 29 percent respectively, while the production of dried pulses nearly tripled, a result of both larger cultivated area and higher yield per hectare.

The news, which will comfort the dozens of institutional investors already present in the market, will also encourage those willing to pay big dollar to make an entry.

The Al Dahra Group, a UAE conglomerate, is reportedly in the advanced stages of acquiring Agricost, Romania’s largest grain farm with more than 55,000 hectares of cultivated area. The deal, which is said to be worth about $200 million, would come after Al Dahra entered into a $1.3 billion joint venture with Saudi Agriculture & Livestock to develop farmland in the Black Sea region.

Al Dahra Group had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Separately, the China-CEE Investment Cooperation Fund II earlier this month announced it had raised $800 million out of a $1 billion target, part of which has been earmarked for agricultural investments in Romania.

“Let’s never underestimate how big the Romanian opportunity is within the Central and Eastern European region; arguably it has one of the best combinations of income return and capital appreciation potential of any country globally,” Peter Beerents, a senior managing partner at Cibus Farmland Club, told Agri Investor. “The agro-ecological basics are superb.”

The market also appears on the radar of TIAA affiliate Westchester Group Investment Management, which earlier this month appointed former Cargill executive Greta Lupu to serve as country manager for Romania.