Fruit and vegetables on wholesale markets and in retail stores in Hungary are currently more expensive due to the off season. Traders are also keeping an eye on the escalating developments in their neighbouring country Ukraine.
The higher prices are not only due to most fruit and vegetables being out of season but higher minimum wages and higher energy prices are all leading to the increases says Beáta Szôke, Product Sales Manager at Apimex Budapest, a regional exporter and distributor of fruit and vegetables in Hungary.
“Because we are out of season with potatoes, carrots and tomatoes as well as fruit like watermelon we are selling whatever is left in storage. It is not the freshest products, but the prices are very high due to an increase in minimum wages as well as high global energy and other prices leading to the increase. The greatest concern for the Hungarian fruit and vegetable sector is the coming national elections in April,” says Szôke.
As tensions rise between Hungary’s neighbouring country the Ukraine and Russia, it is not only the rest of the world but the Hungarian fruit and vegetable sector who are closely following developments there. Apimex Budapest Kft. is a large distributor and exporter of Hungarian fruit and vegetables to European countries while it imports certain fruit to that country. “We export into Europe with the Ukraine a large competitor who is able to provide more volumes as well as better quality products than us,” explains Szôke.
“The current situation between the Ukraine and Russia brings uncertainty. If their farmers cannot produce or export their crops to countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic and other countries in the region due to the situation, it will leave a gap for us. We will then be able to fill this gap in these markets for Hungarian fruit and vegetables. We would then for example be able to supply higher quantities of our early season asparagus and other produce to Germany and Austria where there is always good demand,” says Szôke.
Gábor Szegedi, sales manager from Garten, one of the leading exporters based in Budapest, Hungary agrees with Szôke that prices are high in their country due to seasonal shortages. Garten exports fruit and vegetables from Hungary to Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Germany, Poland and other neighbouring countries.
“Our fruit and vegetables are out of season. We have the stored fruit and vegetables. Wondering about the weather, till now it was not too cold. It was very warm winter. Situation in the last years and after that we had a very cold spring, March and April So we started very late. We don’t know because of the cold March and April. Now we are not late, maybe a little bit earlier, we start with some Garten, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, white and green. These are our first fresh products. Now we are thinking about starting earlier than usual, we still have some questions. Production is normal, it is not more, not less than last year,” states Szegedi.
“Everybody is speaking about the increasing costs, leading to higher prices. Labour costs, energy cost, everything is higher. In Hungary we have more than 8% price increase inflation. Our currency is relatively strong since January, it is a problem for exporters. We will wait and see what happens it might change in a couple of months’ time.”
“We don’t sell anything to Ukraine and also not to Russia. They produce in Ukraine and maybe a competitor for us in the Baltic. So they are not a big influence for us. They compete with us on watermelons and wall nuts but not on other products, so it is really not a problem for us,” says Szegedi.