The country is located in the Carpathian Basin and comprises mostly flat and rolling plains; there are hills and low mountains on the Slovak border. According to Koeppen's classification, the climate is of temperate type, but variable, subject to Mediterranean, Atlantic or Continental influences; it is generally protected from sudden changes by surrounding high mountains (Alps, Carpathian Mountains, and Dinarids). The climate is favourable for the multiplication of seed of many species and several foreign seed companies use Hungary for that purpose.
Arable lands and permanent crops cover 5 million ha, of which 210 000 ha is under irrigation, with 1.1 million ha of permanent pastures and 1.7 million ha of forest. Over most of the country the soil is rich and suitable for agricultural production. The main crops include wheat, maize, vegetables, fruits, medicinal and aromatic plants.
The average daily availability of calories per caput was 3 332 in the 1995-97 period.
Agricultural imports in 1998 were US$ 1 181 million, while exports were US$ 2 716 million.
Hungary is the major exporter of the region for maize, chilli, garlic, and some types of food preserves. It is the second largest exporter of the region for fruit, wheat and wheat flour, and for some vegetables.
The labour force participation ratio of women to men was 0.8 in 1998.
National agricultural policy
The country is pursuing the development and implementation of policies aiming at facilitation the transition to a market economy, and in particular admission to the EU. Therefore the harmonization of legislation, structures and practices with those of the EU is a priority. Since 1997, the process has been accelerated, and as a result there has been a gradual shift from direct budgetary support to a system of subsidies aiming at particular results. Hungary is a member of OECD and EPPO.
At the end of the 1980s, approximately 10% of the total cultivated land area was under state control; 70% under cooperatives and 20% under private control. By 1999, almost all the land that belonged to former cooperatives had been transferred to private ownership under certain conditions. This had the effect of creating a large number of small farmers. Foreign nationals are not entitled to purchase land property; neither are Hungarian cooperatives nor any type of company or partnership. Thus foreign seed companies have had to rent land for seed production or ask Hungarian farmers to do it for them.
The sector is characterized by lack of credit facilities and therefore by insufficient investment. Land market prices are very low, the legal framework and the condition of the land registration system are not fully developed, so land cannot be used as collateral for loans. Land fragmentation has reduced profitability of marginal plots; for this reason, small properties are often let to other farmers, who wish to remain on the land and can make a living from several plots.
Availability of agricultural inputs
The cost of inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, fuel for machinery and for transportation, remains high for the vast majority of farmers.
Role of women
Women have equal right to ownership, education, extension services and financial incentives. They are present in the field of research, plant breeding, seed certification and control and in the Ministry of Agriculture. No significant problems were reported at the farming level. However as there are efforts by the government to sustain employment in rural areas, it should be verified that women have equal opportunities.
The soil and climate of Hungary are suitable for seed production and multiplication, not only for national needs but also for export. The production of certified seed covers 170 000 ha and represents 4.4% of the output value of the agricultural sector, of which 25% is exported, contributing more than 10% to the countrys agricultural exports.
Hungarys current Seed Law was promulgated in 1966 and provides a general framework, including PBR through patents. Some modifications are under consideration for further harmonization with EU requirements.
The State exercises an important activity, mainly through the National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control (an autonomous body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development). It ensures the registration of plant breeders, the evaluation, registration and release of new varieties; the registration of seed companies; the function of seed certification, inspection and control; and authorization for circulation and trade, including imports and exports. The State subsidizes the purchase of certified seed, in some cases up to 20% of the cost.
The main plant breeding activity is carried out by specialized centres of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and by Universities. They are still largely supported by state and public funds.
Their ability to collect PBR dues (or their equivalent) depends on various factors, including the ability of farmers to pay high prices for certified seed. For hybrids and vegetables, the element for PBR is included in the price. Hungary is a member of UPOV on the basis of the 1978 Act; it is working to make the system compatible with the 1991 Act.
Variety evaluation, release and registration
The National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control is responsible, through its Seed Inspection Division. In case of refusal, appeal can be made to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Seed Inspection Division also carries out post-control programmes.
In Hungary, the multiplication of certified seed is carried out on approximately 170 000 ha and involves harvesting of some 360 000 tons of seed. About 25% of this quantity is exported, mostly to EU markets. Foreign seed companies use Hungary for seed production, particularly for maize, vegetables, sunflower, rape, mustard seed, alfalfa, grasses and peas.
Seed quality control
Control is exercised by the Seed Inspection Division of the National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control, following standard rules for testing and field inspection. The laboratory in Budapest is affiliated to ISTA. There are also decentralized centres in various regions of the country. In 1999, the Seed Inspection Division inspected for seed production: 43 572 ha of winter wheat, 25 912 ha of maize, 1 649 ha of potato, 3 782 ha of sunflower, 6 271 ha of pulses; and 9 546 ha of lawn and fodder grasses.
Seed processing, supply and distribution
Major breeders in the public sector have created seed companies for the processing, supply and marketing of seed. According to information from the Seed Inspection Division and a representative of the Seed Council, the processing and storage is generally according to required standards. There are seldom inadequacies.
Breeders and seed companies, representing 95% of certified seed trade in the country, are members of the Seed Council, an entity enjoying consultative status with the Ministry of Agriculture. The Councils activity is entirely supported by the contributions of its 800 members.
Hungary participates in four OECD schemes for varietal seed certification (Herbage and Oil Seed; Cereals; Beet; Maize and Sorghum) and in the scheme for fruit and vegetables. The export-import seed trade is liberalized according to the requirements of the GATT/WTO agreement of 1995, including those of a limited waiver till 2002.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Seed Companies carry out extension activity mostly through demonstrations and farm days, in cooperation with the local Chambers of Agriculture.
Application of plant biotechnologies
Plant biotechnology is used at the research centre of the Ministry of Agriculture at Gödölö, and the Academy of Sciences at Martonvasar on a restricted, experimental basis. Authorization is up to field trials in fully protected areas.
Plant genetic resources
Hungary is rich in indigenous plant genetic resources. There are several landraces as well as typical varieties of green and red peppers, tomato, maize, etc. The natural flora is a source for wild fruits, medicinal plants, forage grasses and legumes, and some crop wild relatives (Aegilops, Lactuca, Daucus, Secale, Vitis, Prunus, Pyrus, etc.).
Several varieties of local types of fruits and grapes are still grown in so-called restricted garden areas. The Institute for Agrobotany in Tapioszele developed a backyard multiplication system for the regeneration of Hungarian landraces and local types near their places of origin. Conservation ex situ is managed on a long-term basis.
Crop genetic resources activities are coordinated by the Institute for Agrobotany, which provides also Secretariat support to the Crop Gene Bank Council.
Hungary is a member of CGRFA, has adhered to the International Undertaking on PGR, and to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It belongs to the ECP subregional network
In 1995, Hungary had 75 170 genebank accessions. The main collections were in the Institute of Agrobotany (199 species and 49 651 accessions), the Agricultural Research Institute, Martonvasar (32 species and 4 778 accessions) and the Enterprise for Extension and Research in Fruit Growing and Ornamentals, in Budapest (37 species and 4 339 accessions). There are also several collections at agricultural universities throughout the country.