Hungary Newsflash Week 6

Paprika growers struggling, pig sector campaign launch, achievements in maize cultivation, Avian influenza updates and nature conservation challenges - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Ripe red paprika (bell pepper) in a pile
©Carlo Sardena
While paprika is an iconic part of Hungarian gastronomy, domestic growers have been struggling the past season.

Weekly briefing

  • Avian influenza: Since no new case has been identified in the county of Komárom-Esztergom since January 6, the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) has lifted the Avian influenza protection area in the county. Disinfection protocols and the observation zone will remain in place, (if no new infection appears) until February 17. Find out more about the recent Avian influenza outbreak in Hungary in our earlier update here.
  • Agro sectors: The latest figures from Q4, 2020 show that while various crises tested the Hungarian agro and food industries, generally the sectors are on an increasing trend. To find out more about how horticulture, field crop cultivation and animal husbandry coped with the dumpster fire that was 2020, see our update from yesterday here.
  • Agroforestry: From sales figures from Week 5, walnut prices in Hungary are on the rise. In various markets around the country, walnuts can cost €9.8-€13 per kg, which makes for a steep 14%-29% rise in the prices compared to 2020.
  • Spice farming: The Hungarian paprika might be an iconic symbol of the country’s gastronomy and culture, however, the farmers of the signature spice are hurting. Stakeholders report that while cheap foreign produce is widely available in the market, the year 2020 was very hectic and unpredictable, which was not favorable for production. Since many of the seasonal workers come from Romania, the border lockdowns caused multiple complications in the growing and harvesting seasons.

Carnival pork campaign

The Ministry of Agriculture, partnering with Agrármarketing Centrum and the national society of mangalica pig farmers, has announced a national pork promotion campaign during the farsang carnival season. The reason for this is that traditional rural pig slaughters and sausage tastings cannot be organized due to the pandemic and that the domestic pig sector is facing ongoing economic issues.

The organizers also commented that mangalica farmers are not as affected by the ongoing crises as the traditional industry in the pig sector. Mangalica, a domestic Hungarian breed produces unique bacon and meat which is “marble-like in texture, with pockets of creamy fat and with a soft texture.”

Mangalica farmers have been organizing annual promotion campaigns since 2013, however, following the 2018 ASF outbreaks in wild boar populations and the subsequent Japanese import restrictions, this small, export-oriented legacy sector lost 40%-50% of its market. Stakeholders have been building new business relations in foreign markets since, including in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Romania, Macau and Hong Kong.

Farsang is a traditional folk carnival season in Hungary, similar in many aspects to winter carnivals in other Central European countries. In modern times, this carnival is sometimes celebrated in the form of costume parties and balls.

Oak acorns on a tree in a forest
©Ylanite Koppens
A recent study shows that climate change is hitting Hungary's oak forests hard. The forests in the Great Plains are facing extended droughts - And as the environment changes, the dominant vegetation formation of Hungary, the Pannonian forest, is in more and more danger.

Bábolna’s Power Maize

During the annual farmers’ fair in Bábolna, a field show/testing was organized with experimental new corn varieties. (Our colleagues attended the event, see more here.) Recently, the harvest yield figures of the experimental parcels have been published. According to the news portal Magyar Mezőgazdaság, the 1000 m2 parcels produced 1000-1400 kilograms of corn produce, making the per hectare raw produce value 10-14 tons. The hybrid variety Persic by G-Seed had a harvest yield of 12.5 t/ha, and five other hybrid varieties (by the companies Corteva, Syngenta, Tradisco, Marton Genetic and Saaten Union) reached yields above 11 t/ha.

The organizers also admitted that during the extended drought in the spring, they did not expect the experimental parcels to be a big hit, but the state of the little plantations during the fair and the harvest yields proved the experiment to be a great success.

Indigenous trees in grave danger

Climate change has put the European oak, one of Hungary’s key indigenous plants in grave danger, says a recent study by a group of researchers from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Debrecen.

The European oak is a staple species in the domestic ecosystem, the Pannonian forest, a Turkey oak-European oak-Sessile oak vegetation formation, the dominant formation of the central part of the Carpathian Basin.

The news portal 24.hu interviewed Dr. László Erdős, researcher at the Ecologic Research Center, a member of the project and one of the authors of the study. The professor explained that while in Western and Northern European forests, renewal is slow and new saplings generally grow in places where fallen trees leave a window in the lush forest canopy, in the Hungarian Great Plains, drought can also be a limiting factor for the development of young trees. While these forests are generally more open, and more sunshine can reach the ground, climate change makes the environment less hospitable. The oak forests of the Great Plains are hurting – And water-stressed periods in the coming decades will only be longer and more devastating.

The study is available here.