Austrian entrepreneurs farm 150,000-200,000 hectares of land acquired under official contracts in Hungary, the Austrian ambassador told Magyar Hirlap daily on Thursday.
Austria will only take steps should Hungary take these back with retroactive effect, Michael Zimmermann said in response to an opinion expressed by a local official of the Hungarian chamber of farmers in the paper that foreigners had acquired an estimated 1-1.5 million hectares of Hungarian arable land under bogus contracts, mostly in the country’s west.
He firmly rebuffed accusations that Austria would use all possible forum to challenge the new Hungarian land act after it takes effect in 2014.
The ambassador said that most of the Austrian owners grow mainly grains, oilseeds and corn on their lands but there are some who grow fruit and vegetable or work as dairy farmers. If it was not for the Austrian dairy production, Hungary would not be able to use up its EU-quota for exporting the product.
A parliamentary debate of a farm ministry proposal on a new Land Act has been delayed for the autumn as the government has extended the time for consultations on the draft proposal.
A key element of the draft is the government’s intention to protect farm land from domestic and foreign speculators, Rural Development Minister Development Sandor Fazekas said in June.