Focus on Hungary

by Chris Lyddon
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Hungary
 
Hungary is an E.U. member state with no coastline and agriculture dominated by small farms. Strongly opposed to genetically modified products, it is endeavoring to build up oilseeds production.

The International Grains Council (IGC) forecasts Hungary’s total grains crop in 2018-19 at 13.9 million tonnes, unchanged from 2017-18. Wheat production in 2017-18 is forecast at 4.9 million tonnes, down from 5.2 million tonnes in the previous year.

The IGC forecasts Hungary’s 2018-19 corn crop at 6.9 million tonnes, up from 6.8 million the year before. Barley output is put at an unchanged 1.4 million tonnes.

Hungary’s rapeseed crop in 2018-19 is forecast at 900,000 tonnes, up from 800,000 the year before.

An attaché report on the E.U.-wide grain situation, dated April 13, said, “For Hungary, the winter crops are reported to be in good condition, albeit the mild winter has increased disease pressure and the overly wet weather affected crop development. Unlike other Member States, temperatures in late February and into March, while cold, remained above average and have not impacted the crop. If there are any real concerns, it is that wet fields are expected to reduce access for crop management in the coming weeks.”

In 2018-19, the Hungarian wheat area is expected to remain unchanged year on year. However, a lower but still good yield means production is forecast to fall slightly, it said.

“So far, the weather has been very mild in Hungary this winter,” the attaché report noted. “Despite a week-long cold snap at the end of February, temperatures remained above average for the season, and the country received some snowfall. Given these conditions, there are no reports of winterkill damage. Winter wheat is reported to be in a generally good condition, but pest and disease pressure is likely to be higher than normal in the spring as a result of the mild winter. Soil moisture levels are high, which is good for plant development but, as has been mentioned in other Member States, excess water in fields are already presenting challenges for crop management.”

Referring to wheat production in the previous year, the attaché report said that “while Hungary had an excellent crop in 2016-17, the average yield was even higher in 2017-18, reaching a level not seen since 1988 and 15% above the five-year average. Despite this, production was lower year-on-year due to a smaller acreage.”

The weather caused problems for corn in 2017-18.

“After an outstanding corn yield the previous year, heat waves and drought reduced the average yield in Hungary,” the report said. “Planted area also declined, meaning Hungarian production fell over 20% (or just under 2 million tonnes) in 2017-18.”

An annual E.U. attaché report on the oilseeds sector notes that soybean production is growing in the region, partially as a result of the action of the Danube Soya Association, a non-governmental association initiated by several Austrian federal state governments in 2012.

It is motivated by the strong opposition to biotechnology among governments in that part of Europe.

“In Hungary, the government has been providing CAP subsidies since 2015 to support the increase in soybean production,” the report said, referring to the E.U.’s Common Agricultural Policy. “In MY 2018-19, the soybean area planted in Hungary is expected to be stable but yields may go up after the low level of 2017-18.”

According to The European Commission’s “CAP in Your Country” document on Hungary, “Hungarian agriculture is characterized by small farms: nearly 85% of the 500,000 farms have less than 5 hectares of land.”

Farming’s role in the Hungarian economy is relatively high for the E.U., at 4.5% of total Gross Value Added, compared with an overall E.U. figure of 1.6%, although the level of employment in agriculture, at 4.7%, is the same as the E.U. figure. Hungary is characterized by a rather atypical agricultural sector with a very high share of arable farming (81% of agricultural land) and low grassland (14.2%), the E.U. said.

The country covers an area of 93,024 square kilometers of which 57% is agricultural land while forests cover 21%.

In its “Factsheet on 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme for Hungary,” the Commission identifies further issues.

“The average age of farmers in Hungary is 56 years,” the Commission said. “Therefore, there is an urgent need for generational renewal.”

Rural employment is also low, with a particularly high unemployment rate in rural areas for women and young people.

“Concerning climate change, Hungary is frequently hit by important water imbalances between drought and floods and there is a clear need for more efficient water management,” it said.

flour
 

Flour milling and industrial uses

According to the European Flour Millers, there are 51 flour mills in Hungary, with a daily capacity of 7,248 tonnes, based on 2015 figures. In 2015, they used 1.25 million tonnes of wheat to produce 1.006 million tonnes of flour. Average capacity utilization is 60%.

All the wheat, rye and durum flour produced in Hungary is made using domestic wheat.

The annual attaché report on the E.U.-28 grains sector calls Hungary “the most significant industrial user” of corn in the E.U., noting that the country has two of the E.U.-28’s largest corn processing factories following the completion of a KALL-Ingredients Ltd. facility in Tiszapüspöki in October 2017.”

“With this plant alone having an annual processing capacity of 530,000 tonnes, the industrial use of corn in Hungary is expected to progressively increase to 2.7 million tonnes in the next two years,” the report said.

Attitude toward biotech

An attaché report dated Oct. 25, 2017, describes Hungary’s attitude toward biotech crops.

“Hungary is one of the strongest opponents of agricultural biotechnology in the European Union,” the report said. “Maintaining the country’s GE-free status is one of the government’s highest priorities and one of the main sticking points of negotiations on trade. At the same time, many plant breeding and scientific institutions in Hungary see the need for, and potential benefit of, innovative biotechnologies on the economy and sustainability.”

The country produces no GM crops and all its political parties support an anti-GM stance. Hungary uses 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of soymeal, 85% of it imported, each year. The imports come mainly from Brazil or Argentina, trans-shipped from other countries, notably Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

The attaché said 90% of the imports were estimated to be GM and put the cost of replacing that with non-GM products at around $29 million a year. The level of GM imports is considered controversial, according to the attaché.

“Despite political efforts to reduce import dependence, only 15% to 20% of protein feed derives from domestic sources,” the attaché said.

It explains that even in the most optimistic scenario, the country’s own non-GM soy production would only satisfy 50% of annual demand by 2020.

 

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