2018 was the most successful economic year of the past 3 decades, and agriculture played a substantial part in that, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture said on Thursday in Szeged, at the Burgeoning – 5th Horticultural Conference. In his words, the government does everything to ensure the continued success of the agrarian sector, horticulture included.

Sándor Farkas said the European Commission would like to significantly reduce direct payments and funds for rural development in the next EU budget cycle. The aim of the Hungarian government is to keep these resources at their previous level or reduce them to the smallest extent, he added.

The Hungarian agricultural output was HUF 2 720 billion last year; it rose by 61.3 percent at current prices over 8 years. The horticultural branches carry a decisive weight; last year’s output exceeded HUF 356 billion, the Deputy Minister announced.

Open field vegetables were cultivated on 79 thousand hectares, the most substantial areas being occupied by sweet corn - 30 thousand hectares – and green peas - 20 thousand hectares. The primary goal is to enhance crop yields, quality production and efficiency, the politician stressed. He pointed out that the capacity of the domestic processing industry can be increased in the first place by establishing foreign-owned processing plants.

Within fruit cultivation, the ratio of dessert apple and sour cherry is decisive, Sándor Farkas said.

Last year vegetables were cultivated on 3 400 hectares, including 1 550 hectares for paprika, 370 hectares for tomato and 350 for salads. Greenhouse surface shrunk from 6 000 hectares at the turn of the millennium to 3 800 hectares, but this was not followed by a decrease in yields, except for cucumber and head cabbage, thanks to technological development, he said.

In the current EU cycles, requests were submitted for creating glass and folia greenhouses on 149 hectares, meaning that the biggest development of the past 25 years could take place in this field. In the years to come, greenhouses of a thousand hectares would be needed; that would allow to raise the output by 230 thousand tons, the State Secretary said.

The production value of ornamental plants is around HUF 50-60 billion. There are some 400 tree nursery plants on approximately 2 900 hectares. Indoor ornamental plant cultivation takes place on 315 hectares, roses and rootstock are grown on 170 hectares.

Mr Farkas expressed his opinion that there is much unexploited potential in the cultivation of medicinal herbs in the long term: by using areas out of intensive production, the output of this sector could be doubled or tripled. Currently, collection of such herbs generates an annual sales revenue of HUF 7 billion.

He added that raising the surface of irrigated areas to at least twice their current size, to around 100 hectares, is a crucial task.

There were 68 active fruit and vegetable producer organisations in the country, with a market share of around 22 percent, that should be expanded to at least 45-50 percent, the State Secretary said.

Speaking of the currently available tender opportunities, he said that, in combination with credit products, HUF 71.1 billion is available for the support of complex food industrial investments. A tender budget of HUF 167 billion has been announced for the development of the food processing capacities of micro and small enterprises. In view of the outstanding demands, a second round has also been announced, with a budget of HUF 50 billion.

At the roundtable discussion following the presentation, several contributors were of the opinion that the tax rules should be modified and VAT reduced in the interest of the development of this sector. Mr Farkas stated that the VAT rate must not be examined outside the context of the entire taxation system. The measures of the past years, contribution payment cuts and the moderation of taxes imposed on businesses, have improved the competitiveness of companies, he remarked.

(MTI/AM Press Office)