Hungary's famous wine town put on UNWTO's top touristic destinations list

Cargo transport of Hungarian grain to Africa underway; update on the apple harvest; price increases of staple foods; and the revival of the Hungarian sugar industry - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary

A woman with a crate in a vineyard, around harvest time.
Beeld: ©Árpád Czapp

Hungarian cereal export to Africa started

The transport company Rail Cargo Hungaria (RCH) has informed the news agency MTI that since the end of the harvest in August, about 14 thousand tons of Hungarian cereal has been transported through the Rijeka seaport primarily to Egypt and Tunisia.

RHC’s press release states that so far 13 trains have, with the cooperation of the Croatian state railway company, transported wheat and barley from Miskolc, in North-East Hungary, to cargo ships at dock in Rijeka. The press release also adds that the company was commissioned to double the amount of transported Hungarian cereal until the end of the year, and that they are also in talks about transporting Ukrainian cereal as well. RHC emphasized that demand for railway cargo transport has increased since August due to high wheat and barley yields and similarly high expected yields of maize, and that the company has prepared for the transportation of 1 million tons of Hungarian cereal produce and that logistical solutions can “give advantage to the competitiveness of Hungarian cereal since competition has been intensified by the produce from Ukraine.”

Hungary’s famous wine town among top touristic destinations

The Hungarian Tourism Agency has issued a press statement to the news agency MTI that             Tokaj has been listed on the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Best Tourism Villages of 2023 list. Tokaj is the central town of the Tokaj Wine Region, one of Hungary’s most famous wine regions. The town is celebrating the 950th anniversary of its foundation this year.

The Best Tourism Village initiative was started in 2021 by UNWTO and this year, 54 communities from 29 countries were placed on the list. According to the press release, 260 communities competed for the privilege of inclusion which recognizes rural touristic destinations, and also emphasizes the conservation of local values and local products.

Potato farmers plan for revival of sector

The news portal Agrárá has recently reported on plans by the government, as well as industrial stakeholders, for the revival of Hungary’s fast-declining potato farming sector. According to the portal, in August, Agriculture Minister István Nagy has highlighted in a speech that the “dramatically decreased potato cultivation area has to be doubled in six years.” Sectoral stakeholders have stated similar ambitions at the 9th Potato Days in Kiskunhalas, which is an important fair of the potato sector in Hungary. According to Lajos Szabó, owner and general manager of the company Bács Gazda-Coop, who gave a presentation at the event, the current 20 tons/hectare average yield is “unacceptable,” and that market competition will force efficiency improvement, irrigation development, without which, “the sector is not viable”.

Several professionals pointed to insufficiently planned plant protection measures and soil nutrient replenishment as major culprits behind the sector’s decline. The consensus was that aside from sectoral development projects, the key is adopting new technologies, including climate resilient and more competitive cultivars, as well as research into cultivating them.

Hungary currently produces 180 thousand tons of potatoes on 7 to 8 thousand hectares, which does not cover the domestic consumption of around 280 to 300 thousand tons.

Update on apple situation has recently reported on the projected figures of Hungary’s apple harvest. We have reported on the harvest projections of various crops in the beginning of October. The agriculture news portal Agrárá has at that time put the expected figure of the total apple harvest at 500 to 550 thousand tons for 2023, nearly double the amount that had been harvested in the previous year. now puts the figure at 450 to 550 thousand tons, which, although still much higher than the 2022 yield, is less than the long-term average of 600 thousand tons. has also commented that spring frosts have caused damages in apple orchards.

The price of apples might further increase later in the year, possibly reaching €1.56 to €1.95 per kilogram in the winter. The magazine further adds that since production and storage costs have increased, much fewer apples have been put into storage and that the amount of processed juice and concentrate has increased.

Pasta price hike to last

In a few recent articles, Agrá has monitored the increase of prices of certain staple foods in Hungary. Based on various sources (including the Central Statistical Office (KSH), the media archive of the national broadcaster MTVA and recent updates by the news agency MTI), the news portal has identified that the last remarkable price hike of various pasta products happened in 2018, with an 8% increase throughout the year, but then prices gradually declined until 2020. A current increase in prices, which started in 2021, is ongoing, however, its rate accelerated in 2022 to levels unprecedented since 2000. Pasta prices increased by 4.6% in 2021. In 2022, while consumer prices and food prices both skyrocketed (with average annual increases of 24.5% and 44.8%, respectively), the price of pastas increased by 70.8% y-o-y. In April, 2023, Hungary had the highest pasta price increase in the EU, with 47% y-o-y. Due to the drought in Canada and low durum wheat yields generally, the prices are not expected to decrease soon.

Hungarian sugar performing better this year

Agrá also reported recently on the increasing price of sugar in Hungary. The sugar industry has seen a good year in 2023, reports the news portal, as the constant decrease of the cultivation area of sugar beet has stopped and actually reverted in the country. Hungary’s last operating sugar factory might double its production this year due to favorable conditions on the international market as well good weather conditions. This can supply as much as 40% of the domestic demand. Stakeholders report that high sugar prices also aid Hungary’s sugar industry in finding its footing.

After the gradual, multiannual decline of sugar beet farming and its low point in 2022, the production area of sugar beet has increased from 8,621 hectares to 13,651 hectares between 2022 and 2023. According to the domestic sugar industry, this figure might be even higher, with sugar plantations reaching as much as 14,642 ha. The sugar industry alliance also reported that the harvest will be considerably better this year, even though diseases have affected more than a thousand hectares of the crops. Concrete figures are not available yet, however, recent projections put average sugar beet yields above 60 tons/ha for 2023. The sugar factory in Kaposvár can be expected to produce around 120 thousand tons of granulated sugar this year.