Good apple harvest hits Hungarian growers

An expected 25 percent increase in this year's Hungarian apple harvest slashed industrial and wholesale prices to unprofitable levels and apple growers are up in arms.

While still far from record levels, the expected 25 percent increase in this year's apple harvest sent industrial prices plummeting and apple growers are up in arms threatening demonstrations and asking for government intervention, news portal Origo.hu reports.

Due to excellent weather conditions in the spring and summer the Hungarian Apple Product Council expects a harvest of 720,000 tons this year, a quarter above last year's. As a result, the apple industry is currently offering a HUF 13,000 (US$45.60) per ton purchase price to producers.

Farmers' association MAGOSZ said this price is ridiculously low and doesn't even cover production and harvesting costs and may force most growers to leave the apples on trees rather than incur further losses. Apple growers say that even a price of HUF 25,000 per ton will only cover their costs and that is the minimum price they are asking for.

On Tuesday the Ministry of Agriculture issued a statement saying that it stands firmly on the growers' side and that the industry should find a way to offer reasonable prices. But the issue is a pressing one and there is little to solve it.

Due to the fact that most of Hungary's apple orchards are thirty or more years old, some 70 percent of the harvest is only suitable for industrial use - i.e. the production of apple juice and concentrates. And in this market, Hungary has a strong European competitor, Poland, which also expects a good harvest.

But Hungarian producers don't have cold storage facilities and the industry only has a long-term storage capacity of about 150,000 tons.

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