Agriculture and farming in Hungary main information
In Hungary, arable land and permanent crops account for 4.33 million hectares (ha), of which about 130,000 ha are irrigated. Pastures account for 0.8 million ha and forests for 1.94 million ha.
The average farm size in Hungary is 8.6 ha (for companies 486 ha and for individuals: 3.4 ha). Hungarian agriculture is characterised by a bipolar farm structure: large farms above 100 ha use 72.2% of all areas, while they constitute only 1% of all farms. Whereas 93.4% of individual farms (family farms) are below 10 ha, and account only for 25% of the land used (70% of them own less than 1 ha). The majority of individual farms serve as a supplementary income source. Further concentration of land use is foreseen.
There are various types of family farmers in Hungary, such as individual farmers, part-time farmers, individual entrepreneurs, limited liability companies and also farmers’ co-operatives. The National Land Act (Act No. CXXII/2013.) classifies family farming as a type of business where a family owns, leases and uses in total no more than 300 hectares of agricultural land and employs at least one family member in full time and other family members contribute to the work as well. The number of family farms in Hungary has reached 18 000 in 2014.
Hungary's leading agricultural products are a combination of staple crops, famous specialty items such as wine and livestock products, and basic livestock. Hungary's most important crops include corn, wheat, sugar beets, barley, potatoes, and sunflower seeds. It also produces grapes and wine, including several famous wines such as those from the Tokaj region. Other well-known specialty items include salami, goose liver, and paprika.
Major crops include wheat (1 million ha), corn (1 million ha) and oilseeds, sunflower and rapeseed (0.91 million ha). The country has a long tradition in producing planting seeds and in horticultural products.
Livestock production is also important in Hungary, including cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and poultry. Important livestock products include milk, meat, butter, eggs, and wool. Finally, Hungary has some important freshwater fisheries, mostly located on the Danube and Tisza rivers, and on Lake Balaton. The commercial fish catch consists mainly of carp, pike, perch, sheatfish, and shad.
Role of agriculture in the Hungarian economy (major figures 2014)
- Share of agriculture in GDP: 3-4 % (agribusiness: 13 %)
- Share in employment: 4-5 %
- Agricultural export: 6.2 billion Euros
- Agricultural import: 3.8 billion Euros
- Share in national export: 8-10 %
Hungary is a traditional agricultural exporter. However, it imports high quality planting seed for propagation and production. U.S. exports of vegetable, grass, forage and, in particular, sunflower and corn seed have been traditionally strong in this market. One limitation for new exporters is that the market is well established, and trade linkages are solid. It is worth noting that the country is an active opponent of agricultural biotechnology in the European Union. Since the European Union member states are legally allowed to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops, Hungary has adopted a law directly banning the growing of GE plants.
The gross output of agriculture shows an upward trend at current basic prices. The share of plant products is 59%, that of live animals and animal products is 34% and agricultural services and secondary activities amount to 7% of the gross output.
The country's agricultural trade balance is positive. Agricultural exports account for 8% of total exports from Hungary. The share of agricultural imports has been stagnating at around 6% for years.
The foreign trade structure of agricultural and food products is relatively stable in Hungary. Most of the exported commodities are grains and grain products (17%), meat and meat products (15%), vegetables and fruits (11%), animal feed (11%), beverages and tobacco (7%), oilseeds (6%), and vegetable oils (6%). Imports mostly belong to the commodity groups of meat products (13%), vegetables and fruits (13%), grain and grain products (9%), beverages and tobacco (10%), coffee, tea, cocoa and spices (9%) and animal feed (8%). More than 93% of agricultural imports comes from EU member states. Hungary’s most important trading partners are Germany (20.4%), Poland (12.8%), Slovakia (9.2%), Austria (7.5%), the Netherlands (6.9%), the Czech Republic (5.9%), and Italy y (5.6%). Non-EU import partners include Ukraine, Serbia, the United States, Turkey, Indonesia, and China in the plant product dominated markets.
Animal production includes 2.9 million pigs and poultry flocks of 40 million birds. The number of cattle of all types is approximately 885,000. Hungary’s agriculture contributes about 3.6% to the GDP and 4.3% to the gross value added. Food industry contribution to the domestic production stagnates at around 2%. Agriculture accounts for 4.1% of total investments in the economy and for 4.8% of the national employment rate. The food industry contributes 2.6% to investments and 3.2% to the total number of employees.
Hungary also has important forestry resources, although poor forestry management reduced Hungary's forestry resources under communism. The expansion of agriculture, a high rate of exploitation, and inadequate re-planting of trees contributed to a significant decline in the period following World War II. In response, the government reduced timber cutting and launched an extensive reforestation program in the 1960s. The timber cut in 1998 was 3.88 million cubic meters (137 million cubic feet).
Hungary’s cattle inventory has expanded in recent years, and its dairy industry has been stabilized by top-up payments, extra EU aids, and other government measures. Dairy cows, particularly Holsteins, account for roughly 60 percent of the country’s bovine stock. Therefore, demand for high quality bovine semen for dairy cows is strong. The volume of U.S. exports to Hungary has shown a growing trend since 2016, and the United States became the country’s most important supplier. Imported U.S. bovine genetics cover about 87% of total imports and amount for 43% of total demand. Regarding the stabilized dairy market, and the increasing number of cattle inventories, there are real potentials for these products. Still, the market is well established and trading linkages are solid. It can be a limiting factor for new exporters.
According to the Agricultural Survey – 2007, the surveyed holdings employed 209,000 annual work units (AWU) – i.e. the equivalent of 209,000 people working full-time (10% less than 2005). However, including the non-paid family members, altogether 512,000 full-time workers were employed on the farms. Additionally, many people cultivate small house plots, gardens, hobby plots, etc. If the latter are taken into account, altogether, there are about one million or one and a half million people involved in farming in Hungary. Hence, the real agriculture employment is much more than 4.7% of the total. This figure includes only those people whose agricultural activity is their main job.
48 % of the individual owners are older than 55 years, and 36% of them have another gainful activity. (According to our survey, 31 % of the holders had agriculture as a main job.) Since Prince Albert Casimir of Saxony, Duke of Teschen, established the Agricultural Higher Educational Private Institution of Magyaróvár in 1818 (now University of West Hungary) almost 40 agricultural science related institutions had been established in Hungary. The diverse agriculture fields such as environmental protection, bioenergetics, and rural development have become more inspiring to young researchers and aspiring professionals. Approximately 221 R&D centers are working in the various fields of agriculture, employing more than 2,009 researchers and scientists.