Both Fidesz and Jobbik emphasize the possibility of greater self-sufficiency in agriculture and energy, but it seems that according to experts that proposition is not realistic. Both political programs give considerable space to praising Hungarian soil conditions, the country's good climate, low population density, and the presence of plentiful alternative energy sources. According to both programs the country doesn't make good use of its possibilities currently, and both promise an entirely different policy if in power. Jobbik's program goes into details; Fidesz's, most likely wisely, remains on the level of generalities.
The chapter of the Fidesz program that deals with these questions was written by György Matolcsy who in my opinion is not a good economist. Unfortunately it looks as if he will once again have a very important role to play in a possible new Orbán government. He was responsible for the "new course" the Orbán government embarked on that led to, admittedly with considerable help from the Medgyessy government, the economic disaster we have been witnessing ever since 2006 or even earlier. In any case, in Matolcsy's opinion "the good soil and the favorable climate are great treasures in a time of food explosion." Jobbik goes further. In their program the high quality soil is the token of self-sufficiency in food production. Both programs talk about the inferior quality of foreign produce which should be replaced by the superior home grown products.
As for the Hungarian soil. It is apparently better than in some of the neighboring countries. In addition there is plenty of it being used for farming. According to Gyula Módos, an economist specializing in agriculture, 56% of the country is used for agricultural production, a figure that is considered to be very high. Until 1989-1990 Hungary was indeed self-sufficient, but since then there has been more "specialization" in Hungarian agriculture. As a result there is more than enough grain that must find foreign buyers while the country must import pork. (Sounds like the law of comparative advantage to me.)
According to Módos, the quality of Hungarian produce by and large is good, yet more than the targeted 20% of total produce being sold in supermarkets comes from outside Hungary. The reason is price. It's hard to imagine, but imported produce even with the added cost of transportation is cheaper than natively grown produce. The price gap is due mostly to technological innovation, larger farms, and higher yields in the West. The smaller Hungarian family farms simply cannot compete with them. Given the free market principle of the European Union Módos and others can't see any change in that situation in the foreseeable future. According to Módos more than 50% of the outlets are in foreign hands and the foreign owner doesn't care where the produce comes from. I must disagree with the anti-foreign bias of our expert. It doesn't matter whether the owners are Hungarian or not; they are interested in buying at the best possible price. And the customers are interested in buying the products as inexpensively as possible. It has nothing to do with nationality.
Jobbik's "expert" blames the foreign supermarket owners for the high prices of Hungarian goods. It's beyond me on what basis he says that. He would negotiate with supermarket owners and would pretty well force them to buy Hungarian products. Given the razor-thin margins of supermarkets, the owners would have to pass the extra cost on to their customers. Moreover, Jobbik argues, Hungarian farmers should have a share of the commercial network. I guess they envisage foreign owners leaving the country and Hungarian customers happily paying much higher prices for native agricultural products.
As for energy self-sufficiency, this is a real pipedream. A few months ago Viktor Orbán ventured into this fantasy land. Those who know something about energy and the country's lack of it spent weeks refuting his vision for the future. However, that didn't make Fidesz more cautious; its program explicitly calls for a "fight against energy dependency." Iván Gács, associate professor at the Budapest Technical University, considers the idea "absolutely unrealistic." In the modern world, "energy independence is totally unimaginable." It is "a totally provincial idea." Energy consumption will only grow in the future. Dependence on oil, gas, and coal may stabilize or even decrease, but alternative energy will not replace these fuels in the foreseeable future.
Both Fidesz and Jobbik put a lot of emphasis on alternative energy in their programs. According to them Hungary has ample sources of alternative energy that will provide the country with energy independence. Jobbik is enamored with geothermal energy but there is a serious problem with that. Currently 95% of the houses are heated by natural gas. To switch these houses over to geothermal energy would cost a mint and some experts say that the payback in energy savings might take more than 20 years. Even for new construction the initial cost (at least in the U.S.) is prohibitive.
As for renewable energy it is not very efficient and most likely could satisfy only a small portion of the country's needs. The Hungarian climate is not conducive to the use of solar energy. Jobbik talks about biomass, hydro, wind, and geothermal energy sources, but their expert admits that out of all these only the use of hydro energy is economical. And the Hungarian public is dead set against hydro energy.
Fidesz considers Hungary's relative richness in thermal waters a great source of tourism. In fact, they think that Hungary could be the center of medicinal tourism in Europe. That could be one of the economic activities in which Hungary has a comparative advantage. However, there is a problem here (and I'm not taking sides on the curative value of thermal spas). One must be very careful not to overuse the supply. One can take out only as much as is being naturally replenished. There are several spas that at the moment are endangered: Hévíz and Hajdúszoboszló, for example. According to current research Hungary has pretty well reached the maximum capacity of thermal water resources. As one expert said: "One can't expect great surprises."