Building Alternative Agro-Food Systems in Hungary
Department of Environmental Economics Szent István University, Institute of Environmental and Landscape Management Gödöllö, Hungary
Contemporary alternative agro-food networks (AAFNs) are frequently described by analysts, researchers and rural development professionals as fragile and ambiguous retail venues representing a wide variety of agro-food products and services while presenting sustainable, face-to-face, spatially proximate relations between farmers and consumers. In the alternative food movement discourse AAFNs usually gain meaning and value as a point of resistance against the universal logic of capitalism and a way out of the crisis of conventional agriculture. This paper will explore and compare agro-food initiatives from Hungary ranging from an open air market in downtown Budapest, through an urban buying group and a complex rural development hub, to organic public procurement schemes in their ambition and potential to represent meaningful alternative solution in the food system. Various strategies will be interpreted within the regulatory context of AAFNs in Hungary looking at how different policies and regulatory frameworks on the national level shape AAFNs? development. The analysis extended to different stakeholders? perspectives, representative statements on alternative production processes linked to quality, territorial origins and ecological advantages of food. While successfully retains as much funds as possible for the country, the national-level application of the CAP basically marginalises environmental concerns, alternative agriculture and regional development strategies. Rather than accommodate smallholder agriculture, hygiene regulations aim to ensure a maximum level of food safety, whereas trading laws impose a requirement to provide invoices for any sale.
The underlying political, cultural processes and historical trajectories of each initiative are analysed with special regard on producers' marketing modes, consumption practices and consumer involvement, power relationships and modes of interactions between these groups. Preliminary results based on qualitative interview data analysis point to the contradictory characteristics of AAFNs in contemporary Hungary enhancing self-organisation, democratization, autonomy, and at the same time shaping new inequalities, creating spaces for commodification of agricultural knowledge.