Hungarian national park invests in nature-inclusive animal husbandry

A cold snap sweeping through Hungary's fruit orchards, Hungarian horseradish production supplying half the EU, expert foresees three-month price cap extension, new governmental land sale campaign announced - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary.

A grey cattle ox with prominent, curved horns and winter fur coat turns to the camera. Barren trees at the edge of a forest can be seen in the background.
Beeld: ©Major Bendegúz
Hungarian grey cattle

Nature-inclusive animal husbandry development in Hungarian national park announced

The directorate of the Kiskunság National Park has announced that the park would use €1.3 million EU funding for the modernization of animal husbandry facilities that house native livestock.

According to Mónika Kiss, head of the ecotourism and environmental education department of the national park, the project will focus on building and developing the necessary infrastructure for maintaining the native animal populations in the Upper Kiskunság pusztas and lakes, as well as the grassland habitats around Lake Kolon.

For the maintenance of the fields and habitats maintained through agricultural methods for nature conservation purposes, various equipment were purchased, including tractors, mowers, balers, grain drills, as well as trailers for transporting cattle and horses.

Ms. Kiss also added that the preservation of the gene pool of native domestic animals is a priority task for the national park’s directorate. The Hungarian domestic buffalo, the Hungarian grey cattle, and the Furioso North-Star (Mezőhegyes horse breed) are very important varieties included in the gene preservation activity conducted through breeding. The goal of gene preservation and the task of nature conservation management through grazing are jointly achieved by maintaining the populations of native domestic animal breeds.

Farmers bracing for the cold

Like in the spring period of previous years, an early spring cold snap has hit Hungary this week, endangering fruit crops throughout the country.

After a frost warning had been issued by the Hungarian Meteorological Service (OMSZ) for Tuesday midnight to Wednesday morning, fruit growers in the southern Great Plain region have  taken measures to protect their crops. These measures include smoking, installing small stoves, and using wind turbines.

Despite these efforts, farmers report substantial damages to apricot crops, which had an earlier start in the flowering season. The fight to save peach and plum orchards is currently ongoing.

“From midnight onwards, the whole family will be out there. We will do everything to try and protect the peach orchard from the frost,” said fruit farmer József Miskolczi from Forráskút, Csongrád-Csanád County, Southern Hungary, in an interview with the agriculture news portal Mezőhí on Tuesday. “Sadly, the apricot harvest has been lost in February, but there’s still something to be done for the peach trees,” the farmer added, referring to the cold period in February with temperatures reaching as low as -14.5°C.

Mezőhí also reports that as climate protection equipment like FogDragons, smoke candles and other tools are expensive, farmers often put together home-made DIY solutions for protecting their crops. These include using straw bales placed on a pallet and secured with wire mesh for smoking in the orchard, as well as burning small logs in containers. The best efficiency for smoking is achieved at a windspeed of 10-15 km/h, and they have to go through the rows several times until the frost has passed.

Mihály Gyuris, leader of the farmers’ association Southern Great Plains Peach Farmers Alliance has told the news portal that their previously installed wind turbine in Szatymaz in Csongrád-Csanád county has been valuable in combatting the cold.

Hungary is the EU’s biggest horseradish producer

According to, nearly 1,194 hectares of farmland were used for horseradish cultivation in Hungary in 2022, with harvesting taking place from October until the start of the next planting season in March. The latest data shows that over 10,000 tons of horseradish were harvested in the country in the previous season, accounting for half of the European Union's annual yield.

Thanks to intermittent harvesting and storage technologies, Hungarian horseradish production is sufficient to serve not only the domestic market, but also more than half of the European market until the new crop is harvested. Producers export 80-90% of the horseradish grown in Hungary, mainly in fresh, grated form. The primary export partners are Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.

Horseradish is a sought-after item, especially during the Easter season. It is almost exclusively grown in one region, the Hajdúság in Northeast Hungary, where 96% of the country’s horseradish is cultivated. Since 2008, Hajdúsági Horseradish has been a protected geographical indication (PGI) product, and in 2021, it was declared a Hungaricum. This is made possible by the unique local soil and production technology known as bakhátas (ridge tillage) farming. This planting technology, typical of Hungary, can only be utilized in regions with specific climate and soil conditions.

Lead analyst expects three-month extension on price caps

Zoltán Török, lead analyst at Raiffeisen Bank said in an interview with the economic news portal Világgazdasá that an extra three-month extension to the Hungarian government’s price cap policy (making it another six months in total) is not out of the question.

Mr. Török commented that if the government is now waiting for inflation to decrease before they suspend the policy, then they might have to wait until the second half of the year. According to Mr. Török, based on commentaries by government officials, the likelihood of extending the policy for another three-month period past its latest expiration date, which is April 30, is high.

Világazdasá further elaborates that Mr. Gergely Gulyás, minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office, has commented in the latest governmental press conference that the cabinet would “uphold all measures that regulate the rate of price increases.”

The news portal adds that all projections suggest that a decrease in inflation will not happen in March or April, and inflation will stay above 20% throughout the spring.

“Although previously it was expected that the government would not extend the price cap policy further, neither the minister’s words, nor inflation tendencies support this view,” concluded Mr. Török to Világgazdaság.

The government and the Central Bank apparently agree that the price cap policy will eventually have to be repealed, reports the magazine, however, the question now is when to do it. Previously we reported on various professionals’ criticisms on the policy, which was questioned even by György Matolcsy, Governor of the Hungarian National Bank and senior Fidesz politician. Despite the government’s arguments to decrease prices, Hungary’s inflation figures remain one of the highest in the EU with 25.4% inflation in February, 2023. Consumer prices also further increased in February, 2023. Food inflation in Hungary remains one of the highest in the EU and in December, it ranked among the top 10 in the world.

The government will start selling state-owned lands within weeks

The Hungarian government is preparing to sell state-owned lands in the coming weeks, reports the economic news portal Növekedé Although the budget act anticipates a revenue of €915 million from land sales by 2023, this year's sales program is expected to fall far short of the the first large-scale state land sales campaign conducted in 2015-2016, according to the news portal, which also adds that the Ministry of Agriculture sees a chance to sell 60,000 hectares of land.

The auctions primarily involve arable land, but also include smaller forest areas that are embedded among privately-owned land parcels and cannot be utilized economically by state forestry companies. Additionally, vineyards, orchards, fishing lakes, and areas previously reserved for military purposes will also be sold.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Hungarian government has already sold a significant amount of land. Of the 260-290 thousand hectares advertised at the time, approximately 200 thousand hectares were sold in the end, generating €835 million in revenue for the government, which was used to reduce the national debt.

However, according to Növekedé, the €915 million revenue target for this year will be challenging to achieve, despite a continuous rise in land prices, due to the insufficient amount of land available for sale. Although the state-owned land portfolio includes 1.7 million hectares of arable land, most of it - more than one million hectares - is forests that cannot be sold. An additional 260-270 thousand hectares are meadows and pastures located in national parks, which are also unsellable.