“Farmers involved in food production are primarily interests in preserving natural resources, which represent the environmental background for agricultural production, and in safeguarding them for future generations”, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Deputy State Secretary for Agricultural Economy said on Tuesday in Budapest at an international conference.

In his opening speech at the conference on links between environmental sustainability and prospects for the agricultural economy, Zsolt Feldman stressed that sustainability is not only in the self-interest of farmers, but is also in the interest of society in view of the fact that the efficient application of resources also affects other economic sectors.

“We are capable of harmonising competitiveness and sustainability through development project, innovation and the required expertise”, he added.

The conference was jointly organised by the Research Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI), the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture (NAK), the United Nations Food and Agriculture organisations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mr. Feldman pointed out that the European Union’s various environmental regulatory policies have a fundamental influence on agricultural production processes, and that Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) also includes major instruments aimed at preserving natural resources. The cited as an example the fact that famers must perform other nutrient-improving activities on areas that are nitrogen-sensitive, than on farmland that is not nitrogen-sensitive. “Irrigation opportunities are also greatly dependent on the state of surface and underground water stock in the given area, and all this together has a major effect on how farmers preform their activities and on the competitiveness of farms”, he pointed out.

President of the NAK Balázs Győrffy spoke about the fact that “These days it is no longer debatable that only the sustainable agricultural model can assure the development of the agricultural economy, because this is what guarantees the preservation and conservation of nature and the environment, in addition to providing a living for the rural population, creating jobs in rural areas and guaranteeing the population’s access to safe foods”. “However, the more determined enforcement of environmental and conservation criteria also requires a change of approach, which in turn required wide cooperation”, he highlighted.

“Sustainable production also includes the combining of technologies that preserve soil fertility, do not pollute underground water stocks, take into account biodiversity and protect plant and animal genetic resources. Farmers must become aware of the fact that if they do not take into account sustainable farming criteria it will mean a major competitive disadvantage for them in the long term”, the NAK President pointed out.

“Therefore, during the development of the Hungarian agricultural economy, the fact that during production, processing, storage and distribution famers must apply procedures that environmentally friendly, must be taken into account as a comparative advantage and a market factor. The international requirements of agriculture environmental protection must be enforced in this manner throughout the Hungarian agricultural economy. This is why the NAK felt it was important to take part in the organisation of the conference and to stand u in support of the issue”, Mr. Györffy said.

“Although many positive changes have occurred wince the FAO was founded in 1945, including the fact that starvation has to all intents and purposes been eradicated in Europe and the Central Asian region, we have still not succeeded in achieving sustainability”, FAO Deputy Director-General and representative for the  European and the Central Asian region Vladimir Rakhmanin says. “Accordingly, in addition to providing support for family farms, and agriculture, food industry and market integration, the third priority of the FAO regional office in Budapest is precisely facing climate change”, the FAO Deputy Director-General highlighted.

The AKI has a several decades long tradition of holding “outlook” conferences, during which each year it attempted to prepare farmers and other sector participants for short, medium and long-term prospects on agricultural markets. We would now like to rekindle this tradition and organise a similar conference to this one every year on various topics”, AKI Director-General Anikó Juhász told Hungarian news agency MTI.

According to the intentions of the organisers, the current conference provides a unique insight for the sector: on the one hand is draw the attention of those involved to the challenges posed by the environmental sustainability requirements posed by the administration and within the framework of corporate responsibility, and on the other hand it points out innovative methods and instruments that can help to overcome these challenges through improving competitiveness. Some 200 people took part in the conference in Budapest.