Hungary: low prices offset good harvest figures

Farmers' collective leader reports massive losses; issues plague horticultural production; maize and sunflower yields great but prices low; and the quality meat source that is not utilized domestically: game meat - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary

Harvest in a field
Beeld: ©NOC

Most of the game meat produced in Hungary is exported

The news portal Agrá has reported this week that although Hungary has a considerable potential in the supply of meat from wild game, most of the produced quantity is exported.

The portal has interviewed Mr. Gergely Giczi, deputy manager of the institute Agrármarketing Centrum. Mr. Giczi has told Agrá that although game meat is considered a high-quality healthy meat product, Hungarians’ eating habits barely reflects the availability of it, with the per capita game meat consumption being 0.3-0.4 kg/year. Most who consume it seek the meat of large game, the most popular are deer, roe deer and boar. Mr. Giczi has also highlighted that with the advent of healthy diets, game meat is a healthy, additive and chemical-free meat option.

Hungary produces 3.8 thousand tons of processed game meat annually, 90% of which is exported. The primary export markets are Germany, Italy and Austria.

Farmers’ Cooperative leader: €260 million loss due to Ukrainian grain

Mr. István Jakab, Fidesz politician, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and head of one of Hungary’s leading farmers’ alliances, National Federation Of Hungarian Peasants Association And Cooperatives (MAGOSZ) has recently stated on the public television network M1 that Hungarian farmers are facing losses up to a hundred billion forints (€259.3 million) due to previously stockpiled Ukrainian grain. Mr. Jakab has also mentioned that another factor in the current difficulties is the fact that the EU’s import restrictions on Ukrainian grain will end on September 15. Mr. Jakab stated that if necessary, the government will extend the import restrictions on Ukrainian grain (we have reported on this last week).

New updates on harvest figures – Great yields, terrible prices

Agrá reports that farmers are satisfied with the yields of sunflower and maize this year, however, they face economic difficulties as low grain prices will probably diminish their profits.

Preliminary estimates suggest sunflower yields of 2.2 to 2.8 tons per hectare, reaching even 3 t/ha in places, which “might lead to a close to record harvest,” commented agriculture economist György Raskó to the news portal. The economist however, called the €360/t sunflower price “catastrophic”. According to Mr. Raskó, if one hectare of sunflower crops yields 3 tons of produce, it would see at €1080 at the current price, and that is the minimum for farmers to break even, which means that “no matter the close to record harvest, there will be no profit [for farmers]”.

The production area of maize shrank after the catastrophic 2022 drought. While there has been enough rainfall this year, its distribution was uneven, which lead to maize yields of 6-7 t/ha in the Great Plains and 8 t/ha in Transdanubia. Mr. Raskó says that maize will be profitable this year, which is important because it might somewhat offset the loss of farmers’ profits from other crops.

Zsófia Pótsa, Secretary-General of the Hungarian Grain and Feed Association told the portal that the domestic grain market is “characterized by waiting” as both producers and buyers are currently waiting on each other as price expectations do not match and intentions do not align.

Horticultural fruit production plagued by climate change and tech disadvantage

Béla Mártonffy, head of the department in charge of horticulture and supplier industry division department at the National Chamber of Agriculture (NAK) has recently gave an interview to InfoRádió on the challenges and difficulties that horticultural fruit production faces in Hungary today.

According to Mr. Mártonffy, in recent years, Hungary has become a net importer of fruits. One of the main reasons for this is climate change, especially cold snaps in the spring period. Stone fruits are especially affected by chaotic weather events in the growing season. Apricot, peach and cherry crops have been hit hard by night frosts this spring, however, sometimes even apple trees are affected by the cold.

However, Hungarian horticultural producers are also struggling with technological issues. Hungarian growers use tech that lags behind of what their counterparts in Western countries use. Another difficulty is that variety testing in plant breeding was effectively suspended after the EU accession, because the perspective in the 2000s was to plant with global varieties. Mr. Mártonffy said that these were not bred for the specific environment of Hungary, which, in the following years, led to diminishing harvests.

Mr. Mártonffy also said in the interview that Hungary now has fewer market opportunities, and that for the above-mentioned reasons, growers’ organizations are lobbying for technological change and the reinstating of variety field testing. NAK also finds it important to strengthen the system of growers’ collectives, similarly to other traditional agricultural countries like Denmark, France or the Netherlands.

New survey: Public divided but majority found price caps harmful

The news site Né reported earlier this week that a new survey by the Idea institute found that 46% of responders considered the policy of price caps on foodstuffs a “very bad idea,” 15% considered it a “mostly bad idea,” 26% found it “both good and bad,” 14% thought it was “mostly good” and 12% found it a “very good idea” with 2% responding “don’t know”.

About the mandatory discounts the survey found that 52% supported the ending of the price caps before the introduction of the discount policy, 47% agreed that they should be extended to the previously price cap-regulated products.