Hungary: Figs, kiwi and sweet potatoes are the winners of climate change

Climate change changes horticulture; meat and egg prices decreased; tomato price follows EU trend; delicacy from National Park becomes more popular; tourism figures increasing - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary

Close-up photo of freshly picked, ripe figs in a paper box.
Beeld: ©Zoltán Szászi

Figs, kiwi, sweet potatoes: Crops made feasible by climate change

In an interview with Agrá, head of the largest Hungarian fruit and vegetable growers’ alliance, FruitVeB, Ferenc Apáti has said that while various fruit crops are struggling in Hungary today, other varieties, previously only known as curiosities, are spreading. Figs are now spreading, so does kiwi fruit. Sweet potato farming is also on the rise. 15 years ago no one was planting sweet potatoes in Hungary, according to Mr. Apáti. Figs, which could not bear fruit in North-East Hungary, produced fruits twice last summer.

Although Hungary was spared from drought last year, fruit trees have not fully recovered from the drought of 2022, the expert told the news portal. Mr. Apáti told the portal however, that this winter has seen enough precipitation, even without snowpack in the winter months. “Therefore, it can be stated at the beginning of the year 2024 that the lingering impact of severe drought is not threatening. In fact, the soils are very well replenished with water, and due to the weaker harvest of last year, the trees have "rested." If, by chance, the orchards are spared from spring frosts this year, a good harvest is possible,” Mr. Apáti told Agrá

Tomato price decrease reached Hungary too

The falling price of tomatoes on the vine, also known as cluster tomatoes, is now a major European trend, reports horticultural alliance FruitVeB, which now shows on the wholesale markets in Hungary too.

On the Budapest Wholesale Market, at the beginning of January, imported first-class tomatoes were in the price range of €2.99-€3.51 per kg, by January 28, it had fallen to the range of €1.95-€2.60 per kg. Currently, there is no Hungarian produce on the market.

Meat and eggs become cheaper

According to a new report by the Research Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI), in the beginning of 2024, the prices of eggs and meat have decreased. The price of fresh chicken meat is 10-25% lower. The price of pork in retail trade has increased however, on average by 10%.

The price of eggs from caged housing decreased by 18%, while the price of eggs from deep-litter housing became 16% cheaper. Turkey meat, in some cases, experienced an even larger decline, falling by 26-27% compared to the previous year.

According to the report, the average price of beef has decreased by almost 24%. The price of pork remained stable or decreased by a few percent, while the processing sales price occasionally decreased by a few percentage points. However, the retail purchase price of most raw pork increased by around 10%.

Some of the changes can be explained by the decrease in feed costs. According to AKI's data, these prices have also become cheaper compared to the previous year, contributing to the decline in meat prices. The prices of food are closely linked to feed costs, and changes in this area quickly make their impact felt on the consumer market.

Organic National Park salami getting more popular

Agrá reports that organic salami and sausage made from Hungarian Grey beef in the Hortobágy National Park is becoming more and more popular in Hungary.

Hungarian Grey cattle have a special role in nature conservation areas in the Great Plains. In Hortobágy, apart from their annually required veterinary treatments, these animals live their lives with minimal human intervention alongside Przewalski's wild horses on a 3000-hectare enclosed area, serving a similar land management function as the extinct wild aurochs that once inhabited the plains. We have covered the special relationship that nature conservationists and livestock herds share in our Agrospecial article on nature-inclusive farming in Hungary.

The National Park sells salami made from Hortobágy auroch beef, buffalo, and traditional Hungarian Grey cattle beef in two different flavors (mild and hot). These products represent premium quality and are also considered organic products.

Tourism figures increasing reported recently that in December 2023, 1.1 million guests spent a total of 2.7 million overnight stays at tourist accommodations (commercial, private, and other accommodations). Out of this, the number of domestic tourist overnight stays increased by 8.3%, and overnights of foreigners increased by 17%. Lake Balaton is still the most popular destination in Hungary, with 20% of the overnight stays. 12% of them were sold in the Mátra-Bükk Mountains area, Budapest shared 16% of the overnights last year.