Hungary Newsflash Week 3

Horticulture trends, food sector news, agro higher education, vegetable processing investment and innovation in nature conservation - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Tomatoes.
©Katharina N.
As a part of the accelerating price increase trend, tomatoes were 45.2% more expensive in Hungary in 2020. The country's annual export of horticultural products is worth €380-400 million.

Price increase on the rise again

According to the latest food industry data by the Central Statistical Office (KSH), the November figures show a 7.2% increase in wholesale prices compared to November 2019, which means that after three months of continual deceleration, the slowing trend of price increase broke, the increase in prices seems to accelerate again. The price of live animals and animal products decreased by 6.2% but the price of field crops and horticultural products rose by 15.5% compared to last year’s figures from the same period.

The wholesale price of live animals went down by 10.8% compared to the previous November, while the price of animal products went up by 4.1%. The wholesale prices of pigs and poultry decreased by 22.2% and 3.7%, respectively, while the price of cattle increased by 12.7% and the price of sheep increased by 2.5%. Milk and honey were more expensive, by 2.5% and 22.9%, and the price of eggs went down by 9.8%.

The main drivers of the increase of plant products were the rise in the prices of industrial crops (23.4%) and cereals (19.9%), as well as that of fruits (14.9%). Vegetables were only 0.6% more expensive on average but potato prices decreased by 24.5% while tomatoes were 45.2% more expensive. Out of field crops, wheat and maize saw a price increase of 22.7% and 25.7%, respectively. (For more information see our annual overview here.)

The new university will not focus on agroecology

The news portal Qubit reports that the new mega-institution, the “Hungarian Agricultural and Life Sciences University”, will drop agroecology and agricultural environmental engineering from its curriculum. The new university will be formed through the privatization of Szent István University, which will be handed to a foundation on February 1 (We reported on this in our Week 1 Newsflash, see here). The magazine reported that according to the available programs posted on the central higher education application site felvi.hu, agricultural environmental engineering will only be available as a postgraduate (MSc) program at the new university, with 20 places in total.

Moreover, the magazine reported that Professor József Ángyán, the now-retired founder of the Hungarian agricultural environmental engineering program, confirmed that the program has been closed down and dropped from the higher education programs officially listed in the Higher Education Act. The agroecology program will also not be opened to new applicants and will be progressively phased out of the university’s curriculum.

The foundation of the re-named university reportedly plan on reaching the top 100 of the world’s agricultural universities in the QS university ranking list. The database currently lists the Szent István University in the #801-1000 rank category of the QS list. The list is currently led by the Dutch Wageningen University.

€15 million investment in vegetable processing

The Belgian-owned company Sugo Food Kft. launched the construction of a new vegetable processing facility in Baja, Bács-Kiskun County in Southern Hungary, reports the news portal Magyar Mezőgazdaság. The development of the new processing facility at the company’s headquarters is the first phase of a €15.12 million development project, which will consist of three phases in total. The Hungarian government provided a development subsidy of €4.7 million for the project. The processing plant will produce and package tortilla chips, and in the next phases, the company intends to expand their frozen vegetable product portfolio and cold storage capacity. The Belgian Roger & Roger group, the owner of Sugo Food is reportedly planning to invest a total of €16.5 million in Hungary as a part of their 2020-2024 strategy.

A bunch of vegetables on a market stand.
©Chris Hilbert
Hungary's horticulture faced environmental issues last year but also, the sector has been stagnating for decades - The reason for which is inefficient coordination between growers and processors, which presents new business opportunities.

Hungary has very good conditions for fruit and vegetable production, however, due to structural weaknesses, the horticulture sector has been stagnating for decades. Some of the current issues include the growing need for irrigation development and weather damage management, however, a lack of business cooperation between growers and processing companies also leads to inefficiencies. Increased business cooperation could enhance productivity and efficiency.

The Hungarian horticultural sectors have an annual produce output worth €196-201 million, from which the processing industries annually produce products worth €434-450 million. Hungary’s annual horticultural export (canned vegetables, jams and marmalades, fruits syrups, etc.) is worth €380-400 million.

Hungarian champagne victorious in world competition

After the victory of Kreinbacher Winery’s Brut Classic 2016 Magnum at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2020 (More on this in our Week 48, 2020 Newsflash over here), yet another Hungarian champagne got international recognition when the Hungaria Rosé Extra Dry champagne by Törley was awarded a gold medal and featured in the “Top 10 Best Sparkling Wines” list at the Effervescents du Monde championship in France.

Brand manager of the Hungária champagne András Csomay told the news portal Agrárszektor that there is no higher honor than winning a champagne championship in France, the birthplace of champagnes. “Moreover, this isn’t only a win for Hungaria, this is another step on the road for recognition for all Hungarian wines and champagnes,” Mr. Csomay told the news portal.

Due to the strong competition, the “Top ten” list actually included twelve champagnes instead of ten this year. Aside from the Hungarian winner, one champagne was Italian, while the ten others were French.

New Hungarian methods in nature conservation

Hungarian biologists developed a new methodology for the measurement of nature degradation and human impact in natural environments, reports the news portal 24.hu. The innovation is a new measuring methodology in which habitats and plants are graded on scales for “naturalness,” providing a scientific framework for modelling how much any specific environment or habitat is in an undisturbed, natural state as opposed to transformed by humans. Because European ecologists have been measuring plant indicators in the natural environment for generations, researchers today have a century’s worth of quantitative data to rely on. The new Hungarian method evaluates every species on a scale of -3 to +6 which signifies how much a given species can be seen as harmful and invasive or endemic and natural. This helps biologists model the extent of disturbance and start planning restoration efforts.

It recently came to light that parallel to the development of the Hungarian method, a team of American scientists have been developing a very similar methodology. The two measurement approaches have been summarized together in a publication in the journal Applied Vegetation Science.