Capsicum was introduced to Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century and became an important crop in several countries, Hungary included. Like other Capsicum producing countries, there are two main types grown in Hungary: one for fresh consumption, the sweet Capsicum, and the paprika for use as a condiment. The paprika characteristics differ in several ways from the sweet Capsicum. Sweet Capsicum is mainly grown under controlled environmental conditions and is also field-grown. The paprika is only field-grown. Spice is produced from paprika after drying and milling. The production area of sweet Capsicum was about 8,000—10,000 ha during the last three to four decades. This area has decreased dramatically in the last two years; currently, it is about 4,000—4,500 ha. The production area of paprika has remained steady at around 3,000—7,000 ha for a long time. Since sweet Capsicum is grown all over the country — except in the cold, rainy areas near the western border — paprika is only grown in the two traditional regions (Szeged and Kalocsa) of the southern counties. Hungary used to be one of the most outstanding exporters of the condiment paprika. Hungary's activity in the world market has been reduced by the emergence of the Southern Hemisphere countries as paprika producers and by the change of consumers' habits (using paprika-based sauces, paprika oleoresins). The Hungarian growers and processors must go through significant changes to meet the requirements of the world market.
The Hungarian sweet Capsicum was unique until the last decade. It differed both in colour and shape from the sweet Capsicum types grown worldwide. Due to a widened research cooperation and exchanges of genetic material, the typical colour and shape formation produced in the Charpathian Basin is now available from the world's breeding and seed companies. Because of the nature of sweet Capsicum, although grown in a large scale (5—6% of the total of the vegetable growing area in Hungary), export possibilities are limited. The only sizeable amount of export is shipped to Germany. Some small quantities are exported to neighbouring countries, and the rest is sold nationally.
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