Land Fund Plans Legal Action In Kishantos Organic Farm Case
Budapest, April 23 (MTI) – The National Land Management Fund (NFA) plans to take legal action in connection with the organic farm of Kishantos, in central Hungary, farm ministry state secretary Marton Bitay said on Wednesday.
Greenpeace Hungary held an event dubbed “Keep Kishantos alive” in front of the Farm Ministry building in Budapest earlier on Wednesday where organic seeds from Kishantos were distributed among participants.
Bitay told MTI that the Kishantos Rural Development Centre caused damages to the state for more than six months by using land that it had been leasing in the past but then lost the eligibility to use. Neither the centre, nor the new leaseholder was paying lease to the state during this period, he added. Additionally, the state had to pay for a security company to enable the new leaseholder to get access to the land they had won through a tender, Bitay said.
The centre was using the land in bad faith and prevented seven family farmers, a company and an educational institution from starting its activities by refusing to hand over the area it had been leasing, Bitay added. The centre was not among the winners of land lease tenders announced in Kishantos, he said.
Bitay also voiced surprise about Greenpeace Hungary getting involved in the case, adding that the government was successfully working together with the green organisation in many other areas.
Greenpeace Hungary communications director Hajnalka Schmidt told MTI that during the Wednesday afternoon event the organisation was expressing its support for “the spirit of organic farming” practiced at Kishantos.
On April 12, the new leaseholders at Kishantos started ploughing up fields that had been farmed organically by the original leaseholders, the Kishantos Rural Development Centre. The centre said the new leaseholders were not “legally in possession” of the area, as there are several legal disputes still underway and court hearings were scheduled to start in the case on April 25.
Opposition politicians and activists have protested against the breakup of the organic farm in Kishantos ever since the leaseholders of the Kishantos Centre refused to hand over the area to the state land manager by the deadline at the end of October 2013 and filed a complaint with the rural development minister over the termination of their lease.
The Kishantos Rural Development Centre was set up under an agreement between the Hungarian and German governments 15 years ago. It operated on 452 hectares of state-owned land and produced the highest-grade organic seeds, as well as offering courses to farmers and carrying out agricultural research.
Hungary’s ombudsman had declared earlier that the farm, which faced being divided into smaller plots, deserved constitutional protection.