Hungary Newsflash Week 5, 2022

The domestic meat sector competing with imported Spanish pork, subsidies to strengthen the dairy sector and a glimpse of Hungary's future in the wake of environmental change - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Wintery and foggy beech and pine forest in Hungary.
Beeld: ©Andrew Neel
Wintery beech and pine forest between Érd and Törökbálint, in the outskirts of Budapest in North-Central Hungary. Hungary's beech forests are retreating due to climate change and in the coming decades, much of the country will fall within the the forest-steppe ecoregion.

Spanish pork import on the rise

As the capping of seven major food items has entered into force on February 1, multiple grocery chains started stocking up on cheaper, imported Spanish pork, reports the economic news magazine Világgazdaság.

The companies Lidl and Aldi declared last year that they would only sell Hungarian pork in their meat selections. Világgazdaság reports that Penny Market and Auchan also prefer stocking Hungarian-produced pork on their shelves, as opposed to Spar, Tesco and the Hungarian retail chains CBA, Coop and Reál.

Tamás Éder, president of the Hungarian Meat Sector Alliance thanked the retail chains that had announced their preference for Hungarian pork and added that the alliance hoped that selling imported Spanish pork “would not become an everyday practice.” Mr. Éder also added that importing cheaper foreign meat will likely pressure other retail companies to follow suit.

Current trends on the common market (An African swine fever outbreak in Italy, delayed market correction, supply-demand imbalance) also directly influence the situation in Hungary.

Government emphasizes the development of the domestic dairy sector

Norbert Erdős, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture in charge of food chain safety has told the Hungarian news agency MTI that Hungary’s dairy production and food sector “needs to be strengthened,” which is why, in the coming seven-year cycle, the government will allocate €2.1 billion to the purpose of strengthening the food industry.

Mr. Erdős added that in the first period, 510 applications for grants have already been submitted, and subsidies have been allocated to 64 projects, in a total amount of €129.1 million.

The State Secretary also commented that today around 4 thousand companies operate within Hungary’s food industry, out of which around one hundred are dairy producers, however, their share of the total income of the industry is around 10%, which means that these are mid- to large sized companies which did not receive substantial EU subsidies in the past.

A jug and a glass filled with milk is placed on a table in front of a sunflower field
Beeld: ©Couleur
Multiple subsidies of the current seven-year fiscal cycle will target Hungary's food industry, especially the dairy sector, which makes up for 10% of the industry's income.

Hungary’s forests will be replaced by arid steppe within the century

Agrárszektor recently published an article discussing the worrying signs that point towards Hungary’s forests being transformed by climate change – And the situation is grim.

Forests in Hungary are usually divided into four major ecoregions. These are, from lowest temperature and highest humidity to highest temperature and lowest humidity, respectively: Beech forests, hornbeam-oak forests, mixed oak forests, and forest steppe. The mixed oak forest is the original dominant ecosystem of the middle of the Carpathan Basin (loosely, current-day Hungary), with hornbeam-beech, beech (and in a few higher regions, beech-pine) dominating the hills.

However, with the changing climate (rising average temperatures, chaotic precipitation patterns), climate limits in Hungary are shifting – And beech forests are retreating. While in 1961, 5% of the territory of Hungary fell within the climate limits of the beech ecoregion, by 2010, this figure had shrunken to 2%. Recent predictive models project that between 2041 and 2071, beech woods will completely disappear in Hungary.

Meanwhile, the size of the forest steppe ecoregion is growing. In 1961, 19% of the country’s area fell within its climate limit, however, by 2010 this figure had risen to 25%. The predictive models estimate that between 2041 and 2071, 80% of Hungary will fall under the forest steppe climate. This means that in a few decades, Hungary’s climate will be more arid, similar to today’s Eastern Romania or Southern Ukraine.