Growing Fast Growing Trees in Slovakia not always growing into the sky

With its strong agricultural background and available agriculture lands, one might think that growing “fast growing trees” (FGT) for energy and industrial purpose is wide spread in Slovakia. It could benefit the environment (Co2 reduction) and create additional sources of income for the agricultural sector.

However, it is not so simple is it seems.  Let’s look at some of the key factors that determine the success:

  1. Land. Growing FGT is considered in Slovakia as an agricultural activity, but only allowed on lands with lower quality (in Slovakia this means land with a “bonita” of 5 to 9). The better quality lands are only meant for crop farming This makes sense, although some fertile lands are located in regions where crop farming is very difficult if not impossible (e/g flood areas of rivers).
  2. Efficiency. Slovak land ownership is characterized by lots of smaller parcels, mostly with more owners per parcel. To be efficient in growing FGT a minimum of ca 5 hectares is needed. When growing FGT on rented land, one needs to have approval from all landowners. This could turn out to be an impossible challenge (there is always someone apposing change). To focus on larger parcels with just a few owners, or to own the land oneself is necessary to be successful. Buying of agricultural land in Slovakia is certainly possible but not always an easy job to do. Buying forest land is easier. Also for using state land one needs approval from the owner (the Slovak state).
  3. Legislation. Growing FGT needs approval from the regional authorities. They will check the soil quality (“bonita”) and other restrictions (such as bird protection). Therefor one has to carefully consider where the activity is planned. Legislation can change frequently in Slovakia and is based on EU law. The pace in which new legislation is drafted and implemented is much faster than in many countries in Western-Europa.
  4. Finances. Growing FGT is in general financially interesting. Depending on the type of tree, subsidies are available from the state (the so called dotation per hectare which was ca € 204/ha for 2014).
  5. Location. Slovakia has an excellent infrastructure, enabling transportation by road, rail and water (Danube). Also its strategic position in the center of Europe makes it an ideal basis for agricultural activities. Export markets are easy to reach.
    Within Slovakia, the Middle and Northern part of the country offer good opportunities as land- and rental prices are attractive and more land is available with lower quality soil.
  6. Climate. With a continental climate and enough precipitation (especially in the Northern and Middle parts of the country) the climate condition are favorable for FGT. However, one has to pay attention to the status of underground water, which in some areas is less sufficient.

Growing of Fast Growing Trees offers good possibilities in Slovakia but one has to do its homework first. We would be happy to support you in Slovakia. This activity would also offer Slovakia a good opportunity to diversify and strengthen its agricultural sector. Until now, the country has not used this potential because of uncertainties in legislation and lack of experience and knowledge. Many farmers and land owners are not aware of the benefits it offers.

In case of questions or remarks pleased do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to support you in setting up or expanding your activities in Slovakia.