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Fidesz’s Lázár Wants Foreign Discounters to be Replaced by Hungarian Ones

Hungary Today 2021.11.18.

“It is hard to understand why Hungary should import food in a country where they have enough agricultural land and fresh water to feed their own population,” said former head of the Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár, in an interview with economic portal Portfolio. The Fidesz supporter says it is extremely important that quality Hungarian raw material production is developed by domestic players, even if this can only be achieved through state intervention. He also suggests that the Hungarian state should try to create a unified Hungarian trade chain. At the same time, Lázár admitted that there is an “unprecedented amount of funding available for the development of rural areas.”

This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute. Translation by Júlia Tar

Hungary has faced the threat of “self-sufficiency” several times during the coronavirus epidemic and because of the energy crisis. That is why it is important to strive for the country’s independence, says former minister János Lázár in a Portfolio interview. He believes that this (independence) is the only way to provide for ourselves, and this is to be achieved primarily in three areas: the energy, financial, and food sectors.

The pandemic threatens the trade of goods and the free market all over the world. In the 21st century, it is important anyway for a country, i.e. Hungary, to regain both self-sufficiency and self-determination, as about ten million people are currently dependent on adequate food production,”

said Lázár. According to the minister, this requires:

…high-quality commodity production, for example, in pork and milk production, which the country is not yet capable of doing today. The only area in which we have regained our sovereignty is in the field of chicken meat production.”

Lázár believes it is incredibly important for Hungary to “move upstream” of domestic manufacturers, buyers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers.

Withdraw from foreign retail chains and discounters! EU membership has not eliminated the possibility of patriotic economic policy, it has only narrowed it. There is still plenty of room to support domestic players,”

said Lázár.

In his opinion, it is not possible to do without imports from one day to the next, as the supply of basic foodstuffs for the Hungarian population would not be possible now without imports, and some dairy and meat products will have to be imported for a long time. As a positive example, he repeatedly mentioned the processing of chicken meat.

A country like Hungary, which has arable land of such good quality and fresh water, could be expected to supply itself with food and thus secure the livelihood of its population. We have the land and the water in our hands, the know-how and the tradition, and yet we import food.”

Asked if he sees progress in the fact that large foreign grocery chains such as Aldi or Lidl also offer Hungarian products in large quantities, he said this is just “marketing” and “those who believe otherwise are naive.”

Lázár believes that it is not risky to upstage foreign discount chains in the country and cites several large European countries as examples, including those in Central Europe. “If Poland, Slovakia, or Austria are able to do it, Hungarian gullibility should be put aside, because agriculture and the food industry must be made a strategic sector in Hungary if the province wants to survive in the future.”

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But it’s also difficult, Lázár said, to change that view because most people like these foreign chains “because they get a wide selection and good prices there.”

According to Lázár, Hungarian entrepreneurs should realize that what is good for the owner of Spar, Lidl, or Aldi should also be good for a Hungarian company. Therefore, he welcomes the fact that the French company in Hungary (Auchan) has a Hungarian co-owner.

The politician adds, however, that state funds are also needed to create such Hungarian chains. “Hungary’s refusal to pay the retail tax was a serious mistake, perhaps one of the biggest in the last 12 years. The Poles won that debate, and it’s no coincidence that they are doing better than us in the food industry.”

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The politician also stressed that a good life in the countryside is only possible if you can make a living here, and this is not possible without agriculture and the food industry.

Lázár believes that the rise in food prices can only be combated by social means (i.e., targeted support for pensioners) and that it would be “unwise to intervene in the market.”

Finally, the ex-minister also pointed out that with the growth of the world population, the demand for food will increase radically: Hungary produces food worth €1,700 per hectare of cultivated land, the Austrians €3,000, the Polish €2,500, the Netherlands €18,000, and 12 of the 15 largest food companies in Europe are based in the Netherlands.

Featured image via Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI