Hungary Newsflash Week 34

The milling industry's struggles, excitement around tomatoes, pig sector developments, the twilight of Hungarian raspberries and cities facing climate change - The week in Hungarian agriculture

A public building in the Városliget, one of Budapest's biggest parks.
Beeld: ©Mihály Köles
An old building, covered in ivy, in Városliget, one of Budapest's iconic parks. A new study shows just how much the urban heat island increases the ambient temperatures of cities - And because the climate is changing, green urban solutions are becoming more and more crucial.

High wheat yield – And cereal shortages

This year, 4.9 to 5 million metric tons of bread wheat has been harvested in Hungary with an outstandingly high yield per hectare and the harvest season passed without any outstanding cases of pest or pathogen contagions. Still, the milling industry and animal feed producers are still in a tight spot. The reason for this is that farmers are holding on to their produce, banking on the prices increasing further.

Throughout this season, the price of bread wheat reached an unprecedented price of €178.23 per ton, and the milling industry has to compete with the producers of animal feed (who are willing to pay 5-8% more for high-quality wheat with high protein content) and foreign companies. Existing produce from the previous harvest already ran out and according to stakeholders, buyers in Austria, Slovenia and Italy are looking to buy a total amount of one million tons of Hungary’s wheat.

The pig sector in a tight spot

Although Hungarians eat roughly 30 kg of pork annually, domestic producers are now facing difficulties on multiple fronts. The two major issues are the market structure rearrangement caused by the African Swine Fever and the continuously rising feed prices. The Ministry of Agriculture recently launched a grant scheme with a financial envelope of €221 million as a form of development aid for the domestic pig sector and a new popular awareness campaign has been launched to entice the consumers to purchase high quality, domestic pork.

Meanwhile, the uncertainties of the international markets are affecting Hungarian pork production too. Because a considerable amount of pork that could not be exported to the Chinese market is stuck in Europe, Hungarian producers are now facing wholesale prices as low as €1.15, at which rate the price is cutting close (or even dipping under) the production cost.

Raspberry disappearing from Hungary

Raspberry production in Hungary can be expected to become one of the first victims of the changing climate. While twenty years ago, raspberries were produced over an area of 1500-2000 hectares in the country, by 2021 the size of this production area has shrunk to less than 200 ha.

The main reason is obvious; the extended periods of drought and the increase in the number of hot days in a year are going over the tolerance limit of raspberries. However, another important factor is the increasing technology intensity of raspberry production, because of which Hungarian farmers would need to invest ever more just to keep up with their foreign competitors.

Close-up of ripe raspberries.
Beeld: ©ejaugsburg
With its production area dropping under 200 hectares (one-tenth of what it was twenty years ago), it is likely that we are now seeing one of the last ever harvests of Hungarian raspberries. As the changing climate is making the production of this crop more and more costly, Hungarian raspberry production might soon become unprofitable and disappear.

Tomato prices slowly decreasing

Although the price increase trend of tomatoes has finally turned around, prices are still much higher than in the same period last year. This is mainly due to the weakening of the Hungarian Forint, which increases input prices and higher fuel prices adding to transportation costs. By August, the y-o-y increase of tomato prices at wholesale markets was 6-32%. Grape/cherry tomatoes still cost three times as much as other varieties however, with their price still mildly increasing (From around €2.72 per kilogram in July to €3.44/kg in August). Meanwhile, the price of cluster tomatoes is between €0.86 and €1.1 per kg.

Hungary’s cities need more green areas

In a recent article by meteorologists in the climate change news portal Másfélfok, the findings of the Meteorology Institute of the Eötvös Loránd University have been published. The study highlighted the importance of green areas and vegetation in cities. Due to the physical properties of the metropolitan environment, in an average year, ground temperatures in city streets can reach 40°C by May because of the urban heat island effect.

The phenomenon called the urban heat island is one of the major rising issues of metropolises around the world. In cities, average ambient temperatures tend to be higher than in the suburbs, in nature or the rural countryside. There are two main sources of urban heat.

First of all, urban infrastructure, machinery and traffic bleed heat into the environment. Secondly, cities are constructed from materials that have notoriously terrible heat-resisting properties. Asphalt, brick and concrete soak up solar radiation at a much higher rate than the natural soil or vegetation. This energy is then emitted back into the urban environment.

To make matters worse, the lack of green vegetation means that there is little to regulate the rising temperatures of city streets, while in the suburbs and in rural areas the already lower temperatures are further tempered by evaporation.

The study found that in Hungarian cities, in the hottest months (June and July), the temperature difference between urban centers and suburbs can be 10°C.

Zsuzsanna Dezső and Rita Pongrácz, the authors of the article, highlight the fact that globally, more and more good practices are emerging in the areas of construction material selection, traffic control, the containment of rainwater, and that the metropolises of the world are not only the sources but also the new victims of the accelerating climate change.