World Food Program center to move to Budapest, Hungary
Beekeepers struggling with the influx of non-EU honey, land prices broke through psychological barrier and one of the most cardinal ingredients of Hungarian cuisine gravely affected by the crisis - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary.
World Food Program financial center to move to Budapest
MTI reports that Hungary's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has announced this week that the financial center of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will be relocated to Budapest, Hungary. According to Mr. Szijjártó, this move will significantly enhance Hungary's role in the fight against hunger. The center is expected to begin operations in the spring with eighty staff members working in it, handling 70% of the WFP's global financial transactions.
Hungary will bear the operating costs of the center for fifteen years in addition to financing its construction, which will allow the WFP to use the funds to provide aid to people in need. The WFP is the world's largest multilateral food aid organization. According to the press release distributed by MTI, this will aid in providing assistance to people suffering from food shortages worldwide and helping them stay in their homes instead of contributing to new migration waves.
Mr. Szijjártó emphasized that several UN organizations already have regional or global centers in Hungary, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Children's Fund, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Counter-Terrorism Office, and the World Health Organization. The relocation of the WFP center will now add to this list. The minister also discussed the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has created an unprecedented global food crisis, and said that the conflict has given the crisis a new dimension.
Hungarian beekeepers struggle to compete with Ukrainian import
VG.hu reports that at current prices, the demand for Hungarian honey on the market has practically disappeared months ago. According to domestic apiculture stakeholders, the market has frozen while Ukrainian beekeepers flood the Hungarian and European markets with cheap honey. The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture has warned that the traditional market for honey in Europe is being displaced by products from Ukraine sold at lower prices, similarly to the grain situation.
According to Gyula Fazekas, the president of the Hungarian Honey Traders and Packers Association, after November 2021, honey purchases on the domestic market have practically ceased, and Ukrainian honey has brought down the price level of mixed and acacia honey. In the last few months, acacia honey, which was previously purchased at €9.98 per kilogram, has been going for €7.06 per kilogram. Not even mixed honey has been selling in stores.
Minister for Agriculture István Nagy has commented to the newspaper that beekeepers in Ukraine, had to sell their honey quickly for half the price or even less to obtain immediate cash, fearing that their products would be destroyed in the war. Apiculture is one of the minister’s specialties who was a university professor before his governmental appointment.
Beekepers lobbying to amend EU directive
In an interview with Napi.hu, Péter Bross, President of the Hungarian Beekeepers’ Association has stated that a stricter EU directive on honey would improve consumers’ choices and would also be beneficial to consumers’ health.
Since its 2004 accession, Hungary has been lobbying to modify the 2001 EU directive (Council Directive 2001/110/EC) on honey and honey labeling. According to Mr. Bross, there is a clear demand from both producers and consumers to accurately indicate the countries of origin of honey blends. The president argues that this would promote consumer choice and protect their health.
Under the current EU regulation on honey, retailers are only required to state that a particular bottle contains a mixture of EU and non-EU honey, without indicating the country or countries of origin. Mr. Bross believes that tightening this regulation on the labelling of origin would help consumers make more informed choices. For example, a blend that has 70% Chinese, 20% Ukrainian, and 10% EU-origin honey could be clearly labeled as such.
While consumers would still be free to choose whether to purchase a blend or a pure EU-made product, Mr. Bross believes that accurate labeling would help them make a decision with a clear picture in mind. According to Trademagazin.hu, the European Commission has promised to tighten requirements for indicating the origin of honey blends by 2023, which could lead to changes in EU regulations on honey and honey labeling.
Land prices rise further
The portal Agrárszetkor.hu reported on the changes in the prices of arable land based on the latest analysis by market analysis company Agrotax Kft. Last year, the average price per hectare of farmland continued to rise and broke through the psychological threshold of HUF 2 million (€5,420). The price of arable land increased by 11.1%, and the average annual rental fee was €235.
According to Agrotax Kft.'s 2023 analysis of the land market, 14,742 land plots were sold last year, which represented a 27% decline compared to the previous year. The average size of the sold land areas also decreased by about 25%. However, transactions and incorporations carried out during the termination of the undivided co-ownership legal structure were not included in the database as they are not tradable in the market sense.
In 2022, the average price of farmland continued to rise in Hungary, with a national average price of €5,930 per hectare, representing an 11% increase compared to the previous year. The highest average price remained in Central Hungary, but prices above €5,930 characterized the Great Hungarian Plain and the Central Transdanubia region as well. The average price per hectare of arable land also increased to €6,310 which represents an 11.1% increase compared to the previous year. Grasslands were sold at an average price of €5,040/ha which is a 9.45% increase compared to the previous year. Forests went average price of €3,350/ha, representing a 10.6% increase compared to the previous year. The price of orchards increased by 53%, while the price of vineyards increased by 68% compared to the previous year.
The average annual rental fee for farmland in 2022 was €235 per hectare, which represents a 5.6% increase compared to the previous year. The highest rental fees could be found in Southern Great Plain and Southern Transdanubia, while the lowest prices were in Northern Hungary and Western Transdanubia. The Agrotax Yield Index value was 4.11% in 2022, which shows the national average annual yield on leased arable land nationwide.
Onions might see as high as 60% price increase this spring
The news television channel ATV reports that onions might go through a steep price increase in Hungary this spring. One stakeholder, Barna Forgács, CEO of Agrárgazdaság Kft., recently spoke in the news segment of the channel. According to reports, severe price increases, as high as 50-60% for onions might be observed in Hungarian stores by spring. The main cause of this is the 2022 European drought, which resulted in much less onion produced by domestic farmers, and the need to import from neighboring countries. It is possible that the price of red onions could reach up to €2.67 per kilogram, reports the news channel.
"Onions and red onions are produced over 1300 hectares of farmland in Hungary, which is a fraction of the amount of land used for onion cultivation a few decades ago. Currently, Hungary imports most of its onions from Austria, which is of lower quality but considered a more expensive product. In addition, traders have to pay in euros, in which the weak forint does not help," said Barna Forgács.
As onions are a fundamental ingredient in Hungarian cuisine, many people continue to use them despite the soaring prices, and they remain an organic part of Hungarian dishes both in households and in the catering industry. We have recently reported on the high food inflation situation in Hungary.
The flag in the beginning of the article is illustration.
"United nations flag" by Sanjit Bakshi, shared on Flickr under Attribution 2.0 of the Creative Commons license.