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News

The processing tomato sector in Hungary

10/06/2024 - Press release - 2024 WPTC congress
The Past
In Hungary, the processing tomato production peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, with 300,000 - 400,000 tons per year. At that time this accounted for 2% of the world production. This period was characterised by hand-picked harvesting and modest yields. Trade within the socialist bloc and the Soviet Union provided a market for Hungarian food exports, including tomato concentrate.
The change of economic and political regime in Eastern Europe led to the collapse of the Eastern markets, which also resulted the gradual decline of the Hungarian tomato processing industry. The low point was in the early 2010s with less than 50,000 tons of raw tomatoes processed annually.

Revival through Univer Investments
In order to regain competitiveness, Univer Product Pic. increased its annual raw tomato processing capacity from 25,000 to 140,000 tons in two phases in 2014 and 2017. As a result of these improvements, from August 2011, Univer's Kecskemet site became the home of one of the largest and most modem tomato processing plants in Central Europe.
 
 The new investments of Univer have meant both capacity expansion, major technological innovation and job creation. The equipment was supplied by the world's leading tomato processing line manufacturer. Of particular value is the pre-evaporator equipment, which represents cutting-edge technology. The application of the pre-evaporator results both energy saving and further quality improvement of the tomato concentrate.

Agricultural Integration and Reference Farm
With the establishment of its own reference farm Univer Product Pic. follows its tradition; the increased demand for raw materials is covered mainly by tomatoes grown in Hungary, This is a priority task, carried out with the support of Univer-Agro Ltd., a subsidiary of Univer Product Ltd. The aim of the reference farm is to create a knowledge centre where Univer can help the local farming community with variety and technology trials, expert advice and cultivation technology services (planting, harvesting, etc.). All this in order to supply the expanding processing plant with high quality, locally grown raw materials.
There is a growing recognition that food companies can only achieve sustainable and meaningful results if they are committed to partnering with producers. Univer respects and supports farmers, and this approach bas led to a raw material supply system that has been operating for decades and is much more than a mere corporate strategy. It is a common recipe for success.

 

The raw material supply system, which integrates around 1500 hectares and is based on nearly 100 farmers, is unrivalled in Hungary. Univer is the largest domestic player, processing around 70-80% of the 110,000-120,000 tons of processing tomatoes produced annually. This illustrates exactly why the company has become an unavoidable player in the Hungarian food industry and in the agricultural sector.

Univer Irrigation Development Consortium
In recent years, the company has also paid particular attention to the development of irrigation systems in the areas of its tomato supply partners. This is a prerequisite for safe and economical cultivation, as the effects of global climate change are clearly felt in Hungary. For this reason, the Univer Irrigation Development Consortium has been created to exploit the groundwater resources and to use water from the living Tisza River. The project will support the region's farmers to supply the domestic food industry with excellent Hungarian raw materials from irrigated areas in a sustainable and competitive way.

60 Years of Academie Research
The Institute of Horticultural Sciences of the Hungarian University of Agricultural and Life Sciences (formerly Szent Istvân University) has a nearly six-decade-long research background on the effects of abiotic and biotic factors on the quantitative and qualitative components of processing tomatoes, with special emphasis on water availability. In recent years, this research has been complemented by the study of soil replenishment focusing on the use of biofertilizers. From an irrigation point of view, the results of recent years have shown that in Hungary, season-long deficit irrigation is favourable over applying only cut-off irrigation due to the potential rainfalls during the ripening period, to produce a better quality raw material for concentrate.

The University has been teaching and researching the cultivation technology of industrial tomatoes for decades. In fact, it is the only institution in Central Europe where long-term experiments have been carried out for more than six decades, providing growers with useful advice and technological recommendations on, among other things, how irrigation affects the yield and the fruit's nutritional quality.

 

This article is published in the 2024 Processing Tomato Yearbook published by Tomato News and distributed free of charge to participants of the Congress organized by the Hungarian tomato processing industry, in Budapest, from June 9 to 12, 2024.

Source: Univer
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Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences - MATE

Research organisation See details

Univer Product Zrt.

Tomato processor See details
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Mr Gábor Palotás

Hungary

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