Hungary Newsflash Week 24

The appearance of bovine tuberculosis, new precision agro subsidies, food sector R&D, water disaster on the horizon, new EU GPIs, increasing land prices and the lingering effects of the pandemic - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Lake Balaton during sunset.
Beeld: ©poszarobert
With a length of 74 km and a surface area of 600 km2, Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Central Europe, and an iconic landmark of Transdanubia. It is also home to one of the EU's newest GPIs: The carp and pike-perch that are farmed here have recently recieved EU protection under the title "Balaton fish".

Weekly briefing

  • Livestock disease: Bovine tuberculosis was identified at a cattle farm in Veszprém county, Western Hungary in the end of May, agro news sites reported this week. Restrictive measures at the site were introduced and the termination of the livestock is now underway. Experts of the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) are now searching for the pathogen (Mycobacterium) for comparison with identified strains. The facility has exported animals to Turkey, Italy and Israel in the past two years, these countries have been officially notified. While the disease appears sporadically in grazing populations in Hungary, so far all cases have remained within acceptable perimeters and the country as of yet retained its official status of freedom from the disease.
  • Precision agriculture: According to the government’s latest agro financing figures, precision agriculture and agricultural digitalization will receive a substantial amount of subsidy funds in the next financial year. The government’s grant scheme for “the digital transitioning of agriculture and precision agricultural development” will have a budget of €284.1 million, and the first application period for this grant will be between July 26 and August 9, 2021. The total agricultural subsidy budget in 2022 will be €2.71 billion.
  • Brewing industry: The Hungarian brewing industry suffered an unprecedented 13% production performance drop last year according to the latest figures of the Central Statistical Office (KSH). The rest of the food industry only suffered a 1% decrease in its aggregate production performance value. Specialists say that the main reason for this production drop in the brewing industry was the mass cancellation of events during the pandemic. While for the rest of Hungary’s food industry, domestic consumption makes up only 59-69% of the market demand, the brewing industry is almost exclusively reliant on the Hungarian market, 94-96% of the beer produced in Hungary is sold domestically. Meanwhile, in the last decade, the percentage of imported products on the market increased from 18% to 26%.
  • Fruit sector: Hungarian producers were shocked by the price offered for sour cherry by the processing industry this year. While in 2020, the price of cherry was €0.62-0.72/kg, this year canneries are offering a mere €0.28-0.34/kg for sour cherry. Producers are arguing that due to the decreased amount of available produce, the price should be around €0.90/kg. Stakeholders are saying that the market is dominated by large canning companies in Germany and that this year’s pricing was finished before the frost damages to the fruit harvest could have been taken into account. The Penta Familia Cooperative conducted a round of negotiations with representatives of the canning industry. Domestic farmers find any offer below last year’s prices unacceptable.
  • Food sector, R&D: A new, plant-based luncheon developed by researchers of the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences will soon be available on the market. The university partnered with the Blue Seven Group for the manufacturing of the new product called SaladMi. The product has a novel recipe. Its main ingredients are vegetables and eggs. One of the first flavors will be lecsó. (A very popular Hungarian vegetable stew, more or less analogous to the French ratatouille)
  • Floriade: The Netherlands is organizing the 7th international horticultural expo ‘Floriade Expo 2022’. The main theme of Floriade Expo 2022 is ‘Growing Green Cities’. Hungary and Serbia were officially invited by the Dutch Government. The Budapest-Belgrade Agri Team organized  an online meeting for June 15 for potential visitors and exhibitors. City architects of Belgrade and Budapest as well as green city organizations attended the meeting where Floriade organizers introduced the event and answered questions.

Balaton Fish and Hegykő parsley to receive EU protection

The application for registering the Protected Geographical Indication of “Balatoni hal” (Balaton Fish) has been approved, reports the Daily News site of the European Commission.  

The new GPI applies to the fish species carp (Cyprinus carpio L. 1758) and pike-perch (Sander lucioperca L. 1758) that live, are bred and farmed in Lake Balaton in Western Hungary. These two species have been the most important and most iconic of the fishes farmed at Lake Balaton for over a century.

Meanwhile, the root parsley variety Hegykői petrezselyemgyökér (Hegykő parsley) has also received EU protection. This vegetable variety is indigenous to the area of Lake Fertő in Western Hungary and is described as having a spicy taste due to the soil and climate of the area where it is cultivated, while these factors also give the root a high concentration of sugar, calcium and phosphorous. Hegykő parsley has been known and cultivated in the area for around 200 years.

Currently, there are seventy registered Hungarian GPIs: Twenty-two food products, thirty-eight wine varieties and ten other alcoholic beverages.

Aerial photo of the River Danube at Kisoroszi, Hungary.
Beeld: ©Bence Balla-Schottner
The River Danube at Kisoroszi, Northern Hungary. A recently published analysis concludes that, with the Carpathian Basin's climate warming at a faster rate than the world's average, Hungary must look into new water management solutions because the nation's water systems will soon be unable to cope with the increasingly grave consequences of climate change.

Land prices continue to rise

Last year, the number of land purchase transactions decreased by 10%, and 8% less arable land was sold and bought than in 2019. However, the price increase of arable land continues. By 2020, a parcel of arable land bought in 2010 had increased its value by 275%.

In 2019, the average price per hectare for agricultural land in Hungary was €4,531. In 2020, this price had increased to €4,760. The highest land prices were observed in Hajdú-Bihar County, in Eastern Hungary, with an average of €6,630 per hectare, while the steepest price rise was observed in Fejér County, in Transdanubia, Western Hungary. Last year, the number of land purchase transactions had also decreased in one year from 41 thousand to 37 thousand.

Agreement for the protection of soil signed

The organization Hungarian Soil Protection Alliance, which has been cooperating closely with the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture (NAK) for years, has recently signed a strategic agreement with the Chamber with the purpose of continuing their cooperation in conserving the nation’s arable soils. The agreement names specific goals for the cooperation: The sustainable enrichment of soils; the sustainable strengthening of the competitiveness of Hungary’s agriculture; education on sustainability; the utilization of Hungary’s agro R&D potential; knowledge transfer to the younger generations; and participation in NAK’s agro economist and advisor services.

Water disaster on the horizon – Paradigm shift needed

In a recent analysis of Hungary’s water systems, experts warn that the country’s current water management systems will soon be unable to cope with the climate change-induced changes in the water cycle – More and more unpredictable precipitation, floods and droughts.

The researchers found that in the Carpathian Basin, Hungary’s immediate neighborhood, the climate is warming at a rate that is faster than the global average, which means that the currently observed negative effects of climate change will only worsen in the future. Large swaths of Hungary’s territory are exposed to periodic droughts and floods at the same time – Which, at this point, is starting to endanger the human population, agriculture and the local ecosystems. The experts are also stating in the analysis that the right solution would be to opt for integrated water management systems based on nature-based solutions that can restore and strengthen the soils and the water retention capacities of grasslands, wetlands and forests.

The analysis also states that in the coming decades, the distribution of precipitation within the year will shift even further, with high-intensity precipitation events leading to flash floods and rapid spring snow melts will further increase the intensity of spring floods.

You can find out more about Hungary’s water problems in our article here. Here is our overview of irrigation development in the country. In this January Newsflash, we reported on the government’s quick solution to irrigation, and why experts criticized the measure.

Digital solution for beekeepers

In the final stages of the KraftRoad, the business idea-development fostering project of the MagentaKraft mentoring program, various innovative new solutions were brought in front of a venture capital jury. One of the promising new projects is an interactive smart map that can connect beekeepers with farmers in possession of bee pastures. The interactive bee map by the young programmer Attila Somogyi won the final competition. Other contenders developed various interesting ideas including, for example, new plastic recycling solutions, an augmented reality application for the exploration of museums or artificial intelligence solutions for news searching.