The period of the coronavirus epidemic brought a price explosion on the Hungarian market of elderberry. While in 2018 the buyers paid around 65-80 forints per kilo of elderberry, last year they did not regret the 300-450 forints. This year, its value increased further: a kilo of berries sold for 550-600 forints.
The reason for the price increase is quite complex: after 2019, fewer people were involved in growing the plant in Hungary, the weather was not good for him either, and there were rumors of sales fraud. However, during the pandemic, demand for elderberries increased.
Elderberry is a native plant in Hungary. Hungary provides about two-thirds of the world’s total production, so a large amount is exported. Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, there has been a significant increase in demand in the West due to its curative effect. Until then, most of the fruit sold was used by the food industry, primarily as a natural colorant: it was used to color fruit juices, energy drinks, and even wines. Last year, however, the situation changed.
“During the pandemic, the demand for its use for this purpose also increased, but the most significant change was its medical use. The demand for elder for this purpose has jumped tenfold. Due to its antiviral effect, high vitamin C and iron content, it became very sought-after during the coronavirus epidemic, ”György Csizmadia, director of the Bodzatermelőkos Sales Cooperative (Botész), previously reported to Napi.hu.
In addition, the coronavirus epidemic, according to the expert, almost coincides with the explosive growth in the popularity of superfoods. Typically not in Hungary, but in many parts of the world this plant is registered as a superfood. In addition, it is very rare outside Hungary, so it is mostly considered an exotic fruit.
The years before the pandemic were not favorable for the purchase price of elder, nor for the domestic situation of the plant. However, the capital and labor requirements of growing a crop that is quite resistant to the forces of nature are very low, and its support system is also advantageous, as an amount of between 800 and 1,200 euros could be claimed for their annual cultivation in the same way as for other orchards.
“In 2020, there were about 6,200 hectares of elder plantations in Hungary, of which about 4,000 hectares were planted after 2010. The jump in crop yields has led to a fall in purchase prices. The low point was in 2018-2019, when its market value was so low that many farmers felt it was no longer worthwhile to grow the plant, ”said György Csizmadia.
However, due to low prices in the few years before the pandemic, less attention was paid to the crop in 2020. Typically, no new elderberries were planted and the old ones were also less cared for, thus reducing the amount of berries produced.
The weather was not favorable either
“The spring frost doesn’t spare elderberry, though it blooms in late May. This is the second year that the curls are avian, with few mature eyes in them. One producer produced 8 tons per hectare in his 7-year-old, irrigated plantation now and last year. However, such an old plantation should be able to produce 12-15 tons, ”György Csizmadia told Agroinform.hu.
According to the expert, the heat wave in June also caused great damage. Although an area was irrigated, the temperature rose from 20 degrees to 38 in a week. The leaves burned and this delayed the development of the plants, resulting in smaller grains. Fertilization could not help the situation either. As a result, the national yield has been about two-thirds that of three years ago this year.
The director of Botész also spoke about an extremely worrying trend in the elder trade: family businesses have been set up specifically for elder picking, taking advantage of the fact that agriculture is struggling with labor shortages. These businesses promise a fairly high price for the crop, harvest the whole thing, and growers who say yes to the business only have a thing to do to measure the amount harvested and then put away the cash they get for it at the end of the day.
No official paper (invoice, buyer’s ticket) is generated from this, so neither is the official income of the producers. According to György Csizmadia, in addition, there are producers who receive area-based support and AKG (Agri-environmental support – ed.) For elderberries planted on several hectares, but no income is visible from the crop.
Elder is still cheap
On the paper of the expert, there is another reason why elderberry has become so sought after: compared to other berries used by the food industry, its price is still low. The cost of frozen blackberries and strawberries is about 4-5 euros per kilogram, while elderberry is only 2.5. This is because while elderberry is a fairly hardy, undemanding plant, cultivating other berries is extremely expensive. For example, a farmer pays about 1 million forints for the cultivation of one hectare of strawberry land. To this is added, among other things, the cost of picking, but there are still few who take on the work on the lands.
Source: Napi.hu by www.napi.hu.
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