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Accepted paper:

Falling into Pieces by the Drupelets: The Collapse of the Hungarian Raspberry Production

Authors:

Alexandra Czeglédi (Central European University)
Balazs Gosztonyi (Corvinus University of Budapest)

Paper short abstract:

Raspberry production in Hungary has dramatically declined recently. While it used to be centered on 'Fertődi Zamatos', it has increasingly shifted to lower qualities. We argue changes in its value can be understood through their embeddedness in multiple socio-economic and environmental processes.

Paper long abstract:

Between 1960-2000, Hungary was one of the largest exporters of raspberries worldwide. Since then, yearly production plummeted from ca. 20.000 to 700 tonnes (FAOSTAT 2020). Regarding this remarkable decline, we have investigated the phenomenon via fieldwork interviews with plant breeders, refrigerator-storage operators, and farmworkers.

One of the refrigerator owners presented the highly regarded rubus idaeus variety 'Fertődi Zamatos' ('Juicy from Fertőd') - patented by the renowned Hungarian research institute in the 1980s. Our interlocutors revealed that the market distinguishes three ranks of value based on aesthetics (size, drupelets, colour), taste (acid, brix scales), crop yield, and cultivation requirements. 'High aesthetic' fruits are distinguished from 'low quality' and 'below standard' that is damaged by sun or insects and used for jams, syrups, or distilled alcohol.

While the Hungarian raspberry production used to be centered on 'Fertődi Zamatos', it has increasingly shifted to lower qualities. Thus, we argue these changes can merely be understood through their embeddedness in multiple socio-economic and environmental processes. These include well-explored dysfunctions of privatisation, labour shortages, and rising competition from Serbia and Poland. Climate change contributed to lower yields in the form of increased UV exposure, lower precipitation, higher temperatures, and the appearance of new pathogens like drosophila suzukii. However, the greatest effect on the very low yields had the underfunding of infrastructures for antiviral micropropagation of pathogen-free seedlings and the collapse of centralised distribution to farmers. Appreciating the role of scientific infrastructures for value production sheds new light on the merits of socialist planning.

panel P136
Infrastructures of Value: Uniqueness and Genericness in Agri-Food Chains [Food Network]