Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 August 2009
Hungarian agriculture today has a dual structure consisting of large-scale, mechanised farms alongside semi-subsistence, small-scale farms managed with family labour and traditional practices. Dualism has persisted in some form throughout Hungarian history. From 1955 to 1989, during the socialist period of collectivised agriculture, families were permitted to produce for their own needs on small tracts adjacent to their dwellings, commonly known as ‘home gardens’ (Szelényi 1998; Kovách 1999; Swain 2000; Szép 2000; Meurs 2001; Cros Kárpáti et al. 2004). These small-scale farms became refuges for a range of local varieties of trees, crops and livestock breeds, as well as soil micro-organisms. Agricultural scientists describe home gardens as micro-agro-ecosystems that are rich in several components of agro-biodiversity (Már and Juhász 2002; Csizmadia 2004).
Despite the changes engendered by transition to market economy during the past decade, the structure of agriculture remains dualistic, in part because incomplete food markets persist. In addition to lower agricultural incomes, high inflation and unemployment rates, consumers have difficulties obtaining reliable product information and predicting product availability (Feick et al. 1993). Search costs and transport costs to the nearest food market remain high. The number of hypermarkets in Hungary has grown from only 5 in 1996 to 63 in 2003 (Hungarian Central Statistical Office (HCSO) 2003). A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO 2005) found that these have contributed to the disappearance of the few extant local shops and markets.
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