A slightly cooler spring has delayed the start of the 2023 Hungarian strawberry season for a few days, but good flowering and good prospects for fruit are expected this year.
"The phenological condition of the domestic strawberry crops was delayed by a few days due to the cooler than usual, but not particularly cold, spring weather. Many growers are already selling their produce at the wholesale market, but all in all, there is still considerably less than usual fruit on the market. The condition of the plants is very good, with only isolated localized frost damage this year.
"Heated cultivation is coming to an end, but in Hungary, greenhouse and heated cultivation only account for a few tens of hectares, which is not significant compared to a total area of well over 800 hectares. It is also reported that, in many of the gas-heated facilities, cultivation has not even started at the usual time this year. Although there was some pressure from imports mainly of Spanish and Greek origin, overall, strawberries from heated production were sold at good prices and in high demand by domestic growers," says Dorina Tóth-Babits, an agricultural expert from Hungary.
Harvest started only a few days ago in plantations under plastic, which means that there are not yet large volumes of Hungarian strawberries on the market, but they are already available in the shops. Prices are typically around 3 000 Ft/kg (€7.96) on the wholesale market, and interestingly, as the Mediterranean region had to endure a cold spell this year, there is little pressure from imports - temporarily, Spanish and Greek goods have also gone back to around 1900-2200 Ft/kg (€5.84) last week (week 16) from a lower price of around 1200 Ft/kg (€3.18) previously.
"The quality of Hungarian strawberries has been particularly good this year, and even with imports, demand is high: to the extent that a clear demand market has developed. Despite rising production costs, domestic producers are maintaining quality, and this is unlikely to change this year due to the good condition of the plants," says Tóth-Babits.
According to Márton Kocsis from Hungary's FruitVeb, successful planting tenders through state support have led to the establishment of several new strawberry plantations, but these will be mainly for industrial processing, which means that the fresh market will not be overwhelmed by this crop.
"Domestic cultivation is still dominated by the very tasty Clery, Joly, and Asia varieties, but as Hungarian strawberry exports are marginal (only 50-80 tonnes per year), the main criterion for the choice of varieties is not their long shelf life but their flavor. "
"Last season ended with a slightly smaller than average crop of around 5,000 tonnes at very low selling prices. Given the international market situation, it is hoped that imports of around 3,500 tonnes per year will be less dominant and, if the weather is slow to warm up, i.e., there is no overlap between the harvest of plastic and open-field plantations, domestic growers should have a good season based on the factors that can be seen at the time of this very early market outlook," states Kocsis.
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