Hungary’s drought problem could force a switch from growing corn to millet

Dried-out corn crop in Hungary. (MTI/Tibor Oláh)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

The traditional African and Asian grain sorghum, also known as millet, should be a good replacement crop for corn in Hungary, as the country is facing increasing periods of drought, said State Minister for Agriculture Zsolt Feldman.

He pointed out that research data suggest grain sorghum is a real alternative and complementary option to corn and other crops in animal feed, and one worth considering.

“In addition to yield security, sorghum’s lower production costs, absence of toxins, and similar nutritional value to maize make it more effective than maize in poor quality areas,” said Feldman, listing the positive characteristics of sorghum.

According to experts, there could be up to 100,000 hectares of additional domestic agricultural land where sorghum can be grown more effectively and profitably than other crops, as it can achieve yields of 5-7 tons per hectare even amid a drought as severe as this year’s.

Tamás Petőházi, president of the National Association of Cereal Growers, also said that the exceptional drought, which has not been seen for 100 years, along with the war in Hungary’s neighborhood are also pushing farmers to grow alternative crops.

Farmers say that even the most optimistic estimates are that this year’s crop will certainly not be able to meet more than 10 percent of domestic demand.

“This is unprecedented, with agriculture producing well in excess of domestic demand every year and a significant export deficit of millions of tons,” they pointed out.

Market players forecast a corn crop of 2.8-3.6 million tons this year, instead of the usual 6-9 million tons. Domestic consumption of corn for food, feed, and industrial purposes is 4-5 million tons a year, which means Hungary may need to import up to 2 million tons. The most obvious source should be Ukraine, but the war there continues to hinder grain exports.

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