March 23, 2012

Dekalb in Hungary

THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2012: Midnight arrival at our hotel in Budapest, to discover they only had smoking rooms available for us. Hack! Hack! (Thankfully, we were able to change rooms for our remaining two nights here..)

Céline Calais, seed supply lead for
Monsanto Hungary,
interprets the information on the back of a
Dekalb seed bag for Julius Schaaf
and Bob Bowman, both of Iowa.
Left around 8:15 a.m. to head west on a 70-minute drive to tour the Monsanto seed plant in Nagyimand. Here they produce and distribute Dekalb corn and oilseed rape—and their market share has grown to the point where they expect to share the market lead with Pioneer in the 2012 season. They use a system of distributors and dealers to market their products, which include about 30 corn hybrids (all non-GMO, of course), mostly within the 90-100 day maturity.  Each bag of seed must be government certified.

Bags of seed corn in Hungary
are smaller than those in the U.S.
Corn is the Number One crop in Hungary, with 1.2 million hectares planted. Wheat is a close second, with sunflower and oilseed rape in third and fourth respectively. All of their seed product is non-GMO by law. But they are working with Monsanto US to use the fundamental genetics to create more drought tolerant hybrids.

Because of the regulatory environment, there are government inspectors on site at the plant every day. Each bag of seed must be individually government certified.  Inspectors also visit the seed corn fields to audit the production process from planting to detasseling to harvest.  Typically, government inspectors will visit a field four to five times during the season.

This seed production plant burns corn cobs for the power required to dry the corn and generally operate the plant.  And they still have cobs left over to sell or dispose of.  So essentially they are 100% self-sufficient in terms of thermal energy.

Members of the group listen as Andras Mészaros, general
manager (far left), gives a tour of the Monsanto/Dekalb
seed corn processing facility.
Hungary ranks fifth in EU corn production behind France, Romania, Germany and Italy. Less than one percent of Hungarian corn is irrigated. Hungary lies in roughly the same latitude and maturity zone as Minnesota.

About 51% of Hungarian corn is exported with Italy, Romania, Holland, Germany and Slovakia as the top five customers. The Danube is a critical transportation corridor to many of these markets, with rail and truck serving other market areas.

Members of our team talk among the stacks of seed corn
with the Dekalb director of marketing & sales.
Hungary has a 27% value added tax on all purchases by an end user/consumer, which dramatically increase the cost of fertilizer, seed and other inputs for farmers.

Get a farmer around new iron and he takes pictures!
Dean Taylor of Iowa snaps a photo of one of
the harvesters used by Dekalb in its
Hungarian seed corn operation.
Tomorrow we'll be visiting with a farmer who owns the record for corn production in Hungary—an impressive 302 bushels per acre on non-irrigated land. (Of course, the Dekalb sales manager likes to take some credit for the hybrids the farmer grew!) We'll also be traveling to a port facility on the Danube, which was characterized by one of the Toepfer officials as "the Mississippi River of Europe."

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