Hungarian blue poppy seeds: "The development of prices is remarkable"

January 7, 2022 at 2:00 PM , Der AUDITOR
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SEEHEIM/BUDAPEST. Today's article was written in cooperation with blue poppy seed traders and exporters from Hungary. The AUDITOR editorial team asked them about the adversities and hurdles the Hungarian blue poppy seed market had to face this year, but also about their positive experiences and their expectations for the coming year 2022.

Taking everything into consideration, it can be said that the year 2021 was better for the poppy seed market players in Hungary than the year 2020. In 2021, the main issue was of course still the Covid-determined market situation. However, the conditions got better compared to 2020. In 2020, the consumption of poppy seeds and their derivatives (stuffing material, cakes etc.) of the retail sector has declined by more than 50% around March-May and only after the end of the strict lockdown, the market could breathe a sigh of relief and partly recovered from the losses in the summer months. These experiences were carved into the mind of the market players and are currently still influencing their behaviour.

In 2020, the total poppy seed cultivation area was about 9,000 ha. 98% of the cultivation area were poppy seeds in food quality and only about 2% industrial poppy seeds. Currently, in 2021, industrial poppy cultivation will be suspended in Hungary, i.e. no more industrial poppy seeds will be cultivated. A long process of about seven years has thus come to an end. In 2014, the largest and only morphine processor, the pharmaceutical company Alkaloida, removed morphine production from its portfolio, putting the sector in great difficulty. In the meantime, it can be said that farmers and producers have opted for food-grade poppy seeds, because this business is clearly predictable and conditions are stable.

In 2021, the poppy seeds grown in Hungary were predominantly of the Zeno Plus type. Its morphine content is below 10 mg, but very often below 4-5 mg/kg. The Hungarian processors and traders had no problems selling the first-class poppy seed quality. The only problem was the very slow start of the season in July and August, which meant that the first sales contracts were not signed until mid-August, although business normally starts in early July after the harvest. So the season got off to a slow start, but eventually the suppliers sold out their stocks in time.

The development of prices is remarkable. In 2020, the Czech crop reached 29,000 mt, about 20% more than in 2019, but prices have dropped by more than 50% from EUR 2.90/kg to EUR 1.40/kg due to the coronavirus situation.

In 2021, the stabilised price in November was EUR 1.95/kg in both Hungary and the Czech Republic. Looking at the crop volumes in Hungary (2021: 4,500 mt; 2020: 4,000 mt) and in the Czech Republic (2021: 29,000 mt and 2020: 29,000 mt), the price development in 2021 is surprising compared to the current prices for cereals and oilseeds. Although grain prices have reached new highs, poppy seed prices have remained well below the level of 2019 and there is no sign of change. The main explanation for this situation is perhaps consumer behaviour. Due to the inflation-crisis, people tend to replace fine foods in their baskets with staples, which can lead to modest price movements in the case of delicacies such as poppy seeds and walnuts, but strong price movements in the case of staples.

All in all, the 2021 season was better because the market was more predictable, but the conditions are far from those of previous years (2010-2019) when farmers, traders and producers depended only on the quality and quantity of the new crop. In the meantime, many other factors (pandemic, inflation, political uncertainty in the major poppy seed consuming countries) have entered the market and it is not easy to adjust to these factors. As the total Hungarian poppy crop is not large but of very good quality, the future of the segment seems secure.

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