- 11 Apr 2013 9:00 AM
In defiance of the misgivings expressed by the European Commission, the Hungarian government introduced three categories to describe home-made foodstuffs . Producers and retailers are not obliged to use them, but if they want to display the Hungarian origin of their products, they must follow the rules. The implementation is monitored by the Competition Authority (GVH) which has recently fined several supermarkets for inadequate compliance.
Zoltán Batka in Népszabadság finds the government regulation absurd, noting that according to these criteria, CocaCola and the hamburgers of international chains are deemed “national”. He accuses dominant food producers and retail chains of cozying up to the government ‘s “vulgar nationalism” by claiming that their products and retail chains are dedicated to buying food from Hungarian producers.
However, says Batka, “a food mogul with a moustache, called Sándor” (Sándor Csányi, CEO of the largest retail bank, OTP, has extensive agricultural interests, especially in the meat industry) and “the Hungarian retail chain” (CBA, a rapidly expanding franchise chain whose owners often emphasize their national feelings) do not stop at the borders – they have established branches in Switzerland and Singapore respectively, where ’local’ is valued over ’national’.
The government could do much more for the Hungarian food industry, Baka thinks, if it prodded retailers to work with “local” producers, including those in neighbouring countries, to make sure that their products contain fresh ingredients. The authorities should warn consumers that quality is more important than price, concludes the author: if Hungarians did not accept “waste dumped on Hungary” as their daily food, small local producers selling fresh products would stand a better chance.
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