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Dec 12, 2020 - István Nagy

Unworthy, partisan accusations against Hungarian agriculture

Minister István Nagy responds to an article published this week by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled, “Without EU money, Hungary would be in the same situation as Moldova.” [“Ohne EU-Geld wäre Ungarn wie Moldau,” published December 10.]

 

The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture considers it unfair that despite the agricultural sector performing during the most difficult weeks of the COVID-19 period, attacks on farmers and food producers are now underway.

Insults, party politics, accusations - Hungarian agriculture does not need this. What it needs is support across parties, especially during an epidemic.

Contrary to the purely general and unsubstantiated finding in the article, the granting of investment aid, partly from EU and partly from domestic sources, is objective and based on a set of criteria agreed upon by society and the relevant DG of the EU Commission in advance, and provides for the possibility of appeal against decisions at all times. Also, an important element in the evaluation process is that the grant applications are analyzed and scored by two independent, expert project evaluators selected by mechanical, anonymous drawing.

In addition, it can be generally stated that the competent certification and inspection bodies of the Union have examined the implementation system of each Member State and found them to be adequate.

As for Mr. György Raskó, in the 1990s, he caused enormous damage to Hungarian agriculture by his involvement in the handover of the food industry to foreign interests.

Indeed, we are so “misusing resources” that the productivity per hectare of agricultural production increased by two-thirds between 2010 and 2019, the sixth highest in the EU after Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland and well above the EU-15, EU-13 and V4 average. In contrast to the 7 percent decline in output between 2002 and 2010, including the 22 percent decline in livestock production, the performance of total agriculture has increased by about a third since 2010, including a 19 percent increase in livestock production, despite all the challenges.

Also, we are so “bad at export performance” that in the 10 years leading up to 2020, Hungarian agricultural exports have increased by 74 percent and the agricultural foreign trade surplus by 66 percent.

There is so little “promise in the sector” that our investment tenders announced in the autumn of this year received an unprecedented HUF 416 billion in support requests from the livestock and horticulture sectors alone in just a short period of time. Hungary is perhaps the only country in the EU where agricultural employment is growing — showing the emergence of new processing plants, the development of the horticultural sector and the rapid growth of environmentally conscious farming and high value-added craft products.

Like many other European countries, we are proud to help and support the survival of our 290,000 primary producers and 24,000 family farms and provide young people with the promise of a future in agricultural production through tax-policy instruments.

Furthermore, we are proud that, thanks to the economic policies of recent years, the profitability of our producers has been able to grow steadily (depending on the sector), as this is one of the most important conditions for the survival of rural economies and jobs.  

So many agricultural jobs have been “lost” that since 2010, the number of jobs in the sector has risen by 22 percent to 211,000.

Our herds of cattle have “decreased” so much that among the EU member states, the increase seen in Hungary between 2010 and 2019 is the second largest, with only Cyprus ahead of Hungary.

The author of the article forgets that the recent disasters in the European pig sector, such as the Russian embargo and the African swine fever, have led to pig populations falling significantly everywhere in Europe (with the exception of Spain and Denmark), with a larger decline in the Polish, Czech and Romanian regions compared to us.

Contrary to the statements in the article, as well as a significant number of other EU member states, there is no major group of basic food products for which Hungary is not export-oriented or at least self-sufficient. Our level of self-sufficiency reaches 150 percent in poultry and wine, 130 percent in vegetables, and almost 100 percent in pork and dairy products. Of course, it is natural that we export and import food at the same time.

Since 2014, we have provided more than HUF 415 billion in support from EU and national sources for food companies, which is unprecedented since the change of regime and we will continue to do so.

Also, as a reminder, we would like to add that Benedek Szilveszter is the newly certified head of the Agricultural Cabinet of the Democratic Coalition.

In Hungary, there will be elections in just over a year, so opposition figures will of course look for topics to argue, but those working in agriculture and the farmers who consider it their profession should be excluded from this. They perform a far too valuable job to be dragged into the campaign with the insults of a few people who are stuck in the political realm.

Photo credit: drnagyistvan.hu