Professional workshop in Martonvásár for boosting organic soybean production
ÖMKi held a professional workshop on arable crop diversification and related new product paths, with a special focus on organic soybean production, at the Martonvásár Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on 27 March 2019.
Actors from the soybean product path, including current and future farmers, seed distributors, processors, and sellers were invited to work together on this common issue. Martonvásár was chosen as the venue for the event because the Centre for Agricultural Research already participated in a fruitful project on the development of the product paths of alternative plant species, which allowed it to share good practices with the participants.
The institute’s director Ottó Veisz introduced the organisation by presenting maize and wheat breeding activities and how their results are already having a significant impact on Hungarian plant production. Senior research fellow Péter Mikó described the breeding of glumaceous cereals and the related einkorn beer project, emphasizing the importance of breeding activities and biological bases in the course of the product path.
Next, Éva Hunyadi Borbélyné (ÖMKi research specialist) introduced the main topic of the professional day by presenting the current status and challenges surrounding organic soybean production and the need for a related product path to be developed. She pointed out that increasing soybean acreage – which can be easily included in the crop rotation of cereals – primarily depends on the development of marketing channels and fair risk bearing principles, as well as the necessary appropriate biological bases and agrotechnology. Currently, there is no cooperation between farmers, even though it could significantly increase their market competitiveness.
At the beginning of the roundtable session a keynote presentation on the potential methods of soybean processing – prepared by Kevin Morel (Université Catholique de Louvain – Earth& Life Institute) for the professional day – was held by Dóra Drexler (manager at ÖMKi). The audience were given an overview of the possible methods and volumes of processing both in terms of seed production and the utilization of the whole plant. A number of these methods could be appropriate for farm level fodder production for farmers to feed their own livestock.
The next speakers included farmers, large scale buyers, processors and business federation representatives, who shared their opinions and recommendations on potential development activities. All the speakers agreed that cooperation and integration are basic preconditions for further development, safe marketing and the completion of the value chain from breeding to the highest possible level of processing. In order to reach these goals the sector needs various types of support.
Gyula Zádorfalvi-Gazdag (a farmer whose main and secondary crops in 2018 were soybeans) told the audience that from the farmers’ point of view, optimal mechanization and post-harvest crop manipulation and marketing seem to be problematic. Gábor Tóth Jr. (a representative of the company ÖKOMAGKER) talked about the possible objectives of human consumption related soybean production, and emphasized the need to increase the ratio of human consumption related utilization. Tamás Popovics (a representative of Galldorf Ltd.) drew the participants’ attention to the dynamic expansion of the organic food market. He mentioned that 8 of the 10 countries that spend the most on organic food are located in Europe, meaning that potential markets are close to Hungary. While Germany and Austria are primarily building on their own raw material sources, there is no local processing in Hungary. The representatives of the company mentioned that they are willing to share the experience they have gained in the field of integration with actors from the organic soybean sector. They also explained that separate organic soybean storage options will soon be available at their site. However, launching organic soybean food production would require hundreds of millions Forints more in investment. In light of this they advised choosing other potential methods of processing at this time.
László Novák (manager of Magyar Szója Nonprofit Ltd.) reminded the participants that just being GMO free is not enough to achieve such an extra charge like those levied on certified organic soybeans. Therefore, it is highly recommended to become certified organic. Magyar Szója Nonprofit Ltd. supports the local processing of soybeans as a business federation as the strategic partner of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Professional comments were followed by an interactive workshop session in smaller groups where the participants tried to find solutions to practical issues. For example, from the production technology perspective they investigated how the exchange of experiences and information flow on varieties and agrotechnology could become more efficient and how soybean variety tests and organic breeding could be developed. According to the participants, more varieties and more sites are necessary for testing, and an online platform would also be useful, as it would allow farmers to raise their questions, and share their experiences.
Questions regarding processing mostly focused on the necessary technical equipment and marketable volumes. In other words, the preconditions of a successful integration process. The participants agreed that a common interest based farmer cooperation should be developed, which would be transparent and traceable. This would focus on organic quality and the highest possible level of processing.
Since the participants were very positive about the ÖMKi initiative on the development of the product path for organic soybeans in Hungary, similar events will be organized for the actors in the sector in the near future.