Thousands of hectares of state-owned agricultural land, which Serbia, according to the agreement between the then PM Aleksandar Vučić and the German billionaire Clemens Toennies, owner of the German meat company Toennies”, was supposed to lease to this investor, are now being cultivated by bankrupt domestic companies and shady entrepreneurs.
In 2016, Vučić announced that the German company planned to invest 300 million euro in livestock production in Serbia and rent land for the period of 30 years, but not a single euro has been invested so far by this company.
In the Zrenjanin area, where 2,420 hectares of state-owned land were supposed to be allocated to Toennies, some of these plots have been handed over to bankrupt companies, such as PKB Imes, on whose farm in Farkaždin a number pigs died due to starvation last year. PKB Imes was to receive a total of 2,256 hectares in the Zrenjanin area.
Examining the contracts from 2019 pertaining to the lease of state-owned land, PKB Imes, represented by the bankruptcy trustee, in February 2020, signed 31 leases for one year for 1,802 hectares and paid 283,591 euro in annual lease fees, or an average of about 150 euro per hectare. For other areas, 600 hectares of arable land, the consent was given in November last year and the signing of the contract is expected.
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PKB Imes was also given land near Banatski Despotovac, where, according to the plan announced by the city of Zrenjanin in 2017, Toennies was supposed to build a big pig farm with a capacity of 70,000 fatteners per year. Arable land was also given to other companies and individuals who were not from this municipality, and local farmers were left with no land to lease.
Instead of renting the land to young farming families who live exclusively on agriculture, 473.5 hectares were given to PKB even though their tractors and agricultural machines have not yet been seen in the fields. Local farmers suspect that this land is actually farmed by entrepreneurs close to the government and high-ranking politicians from the ruling party.
In total, in 2019, there were 807 hectares of land in the area of Banatski Despotovac for rent, more than half of which were given to Imes, a company which recorded a loss of 243 million dinars. Local farmers are outraged with the city authorities, who reportedly promised them, during unofficial negotiations, that they would leave them at least half of the arable land, but in the end, almost all the land was given to companies and cattle breeders from other cadastral municipalities.
Although relevant regulation permits this, the documents governing the use of state-owned farmland also state that the municipality must take into account first the farmers that live locally when deciding on allocating state-owned arable land.
This post is also available in: Italiano