Milestone towards more sustainable hungarian agriculture
The area of certified organic land will increase by nearly 90,000 hectares in Hungary because outstanding demand has led the Ministry of Agriculture to triple the planned budget for organic subsidies to HUF 36 billion (ca. EUR 120 million). The Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) also lobbied hard for this increase. The press conference organized on 18th April by ÖMKi reflected on the new decision, and how organic agriculture should develop in the future.
The expansion of the funding scheme on organic farming is a real milestone
Professional organizations evaluated the status of the Hungarian organic sector and how it is developing.
At the press conference on 18th April 2019, organic farmers and research, certification and advocacy organizations evaluated the status of the Hungarian organic sector. Based on the latest statistics, international trends, and the imminent reform of the common agricultural policy of the European Union, the professional organizations called the Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to increase the budget for organic farming subsidies to HUF 36 billion (ca. EUR 120 million) an important milestone. At the same time, they urged further steps for the development of the organic sector.
Three times as many farmers applied for the call on organic farming that reopened in the framework of the Rural Development Programme in 2018. Therefore, instead of the HUF 12 billion (ca. EUR 40 million) budget that was originally planned, on 4th April the Ministry of Agriculture announced that HUF 36 billion (ca. EUR 120 million) will be made available to support organic farming in Hungary.
- This step is an important milestone not only because it significantly expands the possibilities of organic farmers and those becoming certified organic, but because it shows that the Ministry of Agriculture regards organic farming as a strategic development direction, which is also verified by the international trends. The majority of Europe moves towards greener agriculture. This will bring great opportunities for Hungary too. By developing organic agriculture, not only are we putting down foundations for our sustainable future, but we can also improve our competitiveness – said Dr. Dóra Drexler, director of the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) – According to global statistics, organic farming is the most dynamically developing agricultural sector worldwide. The total organic market of the European Union reached EUR 34.3 billion in 2017. Those that recognize the agro-economic potential of this sustainable production model in time may also significantly increase their market competitiveness – continued Drexler.
February 2019 is the 7th time that ÖMKi has organized a Central Eastern Europe congress session at Biofach, the world’s leading trade fair and professional meeting for organic food. According to the data from the fair, Dr. Dóra Drexler said that although based on the size of organically farmed areas Hungary ranks only 5th in the Central Eastern European region, it is in the top three countries in terms of the ratio of land with organic certification and in terms of the number of organic producers. What is more, the Hungarian organic farming sector has expanded by 62.6% over the last decade. This result may significantly improve through the current application since from now on further 96,000 hectares can be supported from which 88,700 hectares are new organic conversion area.
- As a result of the reopened application fund the area of land becoming certified organic may even reach somewhere near 300,000 hectares in Hungary in the next years. According to the data, the ratio of orchards, vineyards and arable land are on the increase, but the largest expansion is expected for grasslands – said Dr. Péter Roszík, director of Biokontroll Hungária Nonprofit Ltd, in evaluating the impact of the application. – We hope that the support programme will help to reach the objectives of conservation of biodiversity and soil fertility, and creating workplaces in the countryside, as well as supporting the processing industry, which is also an important field. Raw materials coming from organic areas must be processed into food, and then marketed, as this is the key for supplying people with healthy food – added Dr. Dóra Mészáros, newly appointed director of the other independent Hungarian certifying organization, Hungária Öko Garancia Ltd., who is currently co-director of the Brussels office of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), and will start her new position in June.
Gábor Czeller, chair or the Hungarian Biokultúra Alliance and the organic farmer of the year in 2017, emphasized that organic farming is the only truly sustainable type of farming, and must be made sustainable also from the farmers’ point of view, too. For this, state funding is indispensable. József Büki, who is an organic farmer, highlighted that besides supporting organic plant production, organic animal husbandry and milk production, crop storage possibilities, and the awareness about conscious food consumption also need to be developed.
Dr. Gábor Solti, president of the Association of Organic Farmers in the Carpathian Basin (founded in 2011), which is the strategic partner of the Ministry of Agriculture, highlighted the Vajdaság programme, which has been running for six years, as an exemplary practice. Thanks to this programme, locally produced certified organic fruit and vegetables are processed and then served at the kindergartens in villages around Szabadka and Magyarkanizsa.
Further information on the organizations:
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture: The Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) works on research-innovation tasks leading to practically implementable results, thus guaranteeing the sustainable development of agriculture and food production in Hungary. To this end the organization develops professional networks in cooperation with Hungarian and foreign research institutes and farmers, carries out research and information activities, and provides technical advice. Its oldest project called “On-farm research network” won the Agricultural Development Prize at the 78th National Agriculture and Food Exhibition and Fair (OMÉK) and also the E.on Energy Globe Award in 2018, and it is the only Hungarian project carrying out research in close cooperation with farmers by applying a practical approach to sustainable agriculture. The on-farm research method covers simple experiments conducted in real life situations on operating farms adapted to the production objectives defined by the farmers. The subjects of the experiments have been elaborated together by ÖMKi and the participating farms since 2012. The organization’s work has also been acknowledged by the Association of Environmental Enterprises through the charter called “For the protection of the environment” in 2019.
Hungarian Biokultúra Alliance: The Hungarian Biokultúra Alliance is one of the oldest organizations supporting organic farming, even at the international level. Its mission is to facilitate the spread of organic farming, protecting the environment, and providing healthy food. To this end, the organization actively participates in agricultural public life, operates as the strategic partner of the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture, delegates a member to the Monitoring Committee of the Rural Development Programme, and influences the process of relevant legislation.
Biokontroll Hungária Nonprofit Ltd.: Biokontroll Hungária Nonprofit Ltd. was established in 1996 by the Hungarian Biokultúra Alliance, which is the leading organization for organic farming in Hungary and for the control of organic farming activities in the country. Biokontroll Hungária Nonprofit Ltd. is still the only organic certifying organization that is Hungarian owned. The organization’s objective is to maintain and even increase the prestige of Hungarian organic products on the global market.
Hungária Öko Garancia Ltd.: Hungária Öko Garancia Ltd. (HÖG) was established in 2000 as an independent certifying organization acknowledged by the National Food Chain Safety Office. It provides information to farmers, processors and distributors working in the food industry, thus contributing to the development of sustainable production systems and increasing their competitiveness. Besides farms dealing with plant production and animal husbandry, Hungária Öko Garancia Ltd. also controls several processing facilities in Hungary. Together with its international partners it also carries out inspections based on various standards. The work and services Hungária Öko Garancia Ltd. provides support sustainable farming, the preservation of the rural landscape and animal welfare.
Association of Organic Farmers in the Carpathian Basin: The Association of Organic Farmers in the Carpathian Basin (KÖSZ) was founded by 11 organizations dealing with organic agriculture from five countries in and around the Carpathian Basin in 2011, becoming the largest umbrella organization of its kind in the Carpathian Basin. Its major activities include the realization of the principles included in the Bio Charta as well as supporting and participating in the practical implementation of the National Rural Strategy 2012-2020 of the Hungarian government – as the strategic partner of the Ministry of Agriculture – mainly focusing on rural development related cooperation and organic farming programmes of the Carpathian Basin.