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Fifth of farmland already owned by foreigners

Roughly 20% of Hungary's farmlands are already owned by foreigners despite the ban that forbids non-Hungarian EU citizens to buy arable land in Hungary until at least 2011, conservative daily Magyar Nemzet reported.

Citing farmers, agricultural experts and lawyers from west Hungary, the paper said foreigners snapped out large tracts of Hungarian farmland years ago as company owners and now that the law has been changed to prohibit this option they are still becoming quasi-owners by signing long-term leases.

Another widespread practice is giving land to foreigners as a gift, which automatically qualifies them as co-owners and grants them pre-emptive rights. Farmland prices in Hungary are about €2,500 a hectare. This compares to €12,000 in Germany and €24,000 in Holland. (Magyar Nemzet)