KYIV - Ukraine's parliament has passed a bill in its first reading to remove a ban on the sale of farmland, a move supported by the country's foreign backers.
A total of 240 lawmakers backed the bill in the 450-member Verkhovna Rada on November 13 to lift the nearly two-decade ban in October 2020.
The proposed legislation must be voted on a second time to come into force.
Those who want to scrap the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land, which was introduced in 2001, say the move would unlock enormous investment potential.
However, critics raised concerns that it could allow local oligarchs and foreigners to force out poorer Ukrainians in purchasing plots.
The draft bill stipulates that foreigners will not be able to buy land until 2024 and limits the area that could be accumulated by one person or entity.
Ukraine, one of the world's top grain exporters, has more than 40 million hectares of fertile farmland that covers nearly 70 percent of its territory.
Creating a farmland market by lifting the moratorium could add $15 billion a year to Ukraine's economic output and increase yearly gross domestic product by about 1.5 percentage points, according to the World Bank.
The European Union representative office in Ukraine said the bloc supports plans to open the land market in Ukraine, but it insisted that the reform must be "based on rule of law and principles of sustainability, fairness, inclusiveness and transparency of land-related data."
"Priority to small farmers, safeguards must be put in place to avoid concentration of land ownership," it said.
With reporting by Reuters
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