The long-established Hungarian healthcare sector, which dates back to over 100 years, is recognized all over the world. Its reputation was cemented by entrepreneurs whose companies operating in the first decades of the previous century would nowadays be called multinational organisations. Gedeon Richter is a prominent figure among them. He was one of the first people in the world who made a successful attempt to produce pharmacy products on an industrial scale. His prestige was reinforced by patented medicines known all over Europe and the world such as the disinfectant Hyperol that proved useful in World War I and the antipyretic drug Kalmopyrin.
As far as Hungarian medical research is concerned, Albert Szent-Györgyi is a household name as the winner of the Nobel Prize for discovering vitamin C. Furthermore, Georg von Békésy, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on the function of the cochlea, also started his scientific endeavours in Hungary.
The Hungarian health industry spans many areas such as the pharmaceutical industry, the manufacturing of medical devices and equipment, the herbal medicine industry, as well as biotechnology, genetics and bionics. Meanwhile, significant developments involving nearly every sector are underway in the field of healthcare informatics. Since 2017, the latter also enjoys the support of the Digital Healthcare Development Strategy. Hungary is teeming with thermal and medicinal water springs and has excellent geothermal conditions. It has been capitalising on its various hot springs and the experiences and knowledge gained over the centuries, which resulted in many tradeable Hungarian developments in the field of balneology.
International markets show more and more interest in Hungarian healthcare developments every year. Exports in the healthcare sector increased by 65 percent between 2012 and 2019.
In 2019, Hungarian companies exported more than EUR 1.5 billion worth of medical devices. A quarter of these were sold in non-EU markets. The industry accounts for 9 percent of Hungary’s exports outside the Union. As previously mentioned, the Hungarian pharmaceutical industry is quite robust: it is the 18th biggest exporter in the world within the sector. Hungarian pharmaceutical production accounts for 6 percent of the total Hungarian GDP with 85 percent of the products being exported. The foreign trade surplus of EUR 27 million per employee exceeds even the motor vehicle industry, which is also in a dominant position. The pharmaceutical industry is our most innovative manufacturing sector. One fifth of the domestic R&D expenditures is associated with the sector, which invests 20 percent of its profits in R&D activities. Each year, Hungarian pharmaceutical companies file more than 40 new patent applications and more than 160 new market licenses. What’s more, the Hungarian health industry has considerable achievements under its belt in terms of promoting developments. For instance, a Hungarian patent can help develop drugs that elicit faster immune responses (ImmunoGenes Kft).
Hungarian markets show tremendous potential as well: the Covid pandemic reinforces forecasts according to which domestic manufacturers’ share within the sales of medical devices could increase to 50 percent from the current 18 percent.
Health tourism is gaining more and more ground within the health industry. Foreigners are typically interested in dental services and cosmetic surgery provided in Hungary. We are also acclaimed within the field of innovative rehabilitation therapies. The Pető method and the uniquely Hungarian early development and physiotherapy associated with Anna Dévény are globally recognised as well.
It would be remiss not to mention that due to the strong agricultural traditions, Hungary is also a leader in the field of animal healthcare. Numerous Hungarian companies develop veterinary medicines, a substantial part of which they export abroad.
The Hungarian food industry and its supplier, the agricultural sector contributes 4.5% to the Hungarian GDP per annum, and their joint share in employment amounts to 8%. According to some estimations, the agribusiness (agriculture, food industry and the joint, supplying, processing and distributing activities) might account to 12-13% or even 23-25% of the national GDP.
Hungarian agricultural exports worth about EUR 9 billion per annum and its EUR 2.8 billion trade surplus has a significant contribution to the positive balance of the national economy, making it one of the most strategically important sectors. The five largest export markets (Germany, Romania, Italy, Austria and Slovakia) accounts for half of the food export, the EU markets has a share over 80%, other European markets 10-15% and Asian markets 4-5%.
Thanks to investments made in recent years, agriculture and food industry develops dynamically, agricultural productivity has increased by about two-thirds between 2010 and 2018. Investments may also shift the pattern of food exports currently predominated by unprocessed and primary processed products (32 to 32%), secondary processed products amount to about 36%, while the latter category accounts for almost half of the import. Secondary processed products represent higher added value and can be transported over longer distances, thus export markets may be further diversified by these products.
First in the EU, the ban on cultivating genetically modified crops is laid down in the Hungarian Constitution. High quality, strict control requirements, GMO-free agricultural cultivation, and excellent expertise are a major competitive advantage for Hungarian companies in foreign markets.
In some areas, the Hungarian production occupies a leading position at European and global level. With 500,000 tons of sweet corn production, Hungary is the leading producer of sweet corn in the European Union and ranks second in the global market.
The Hungarian honey export accounts for 4% of the global export and makes the country the leading honey exporter in the EU-market. In terms of secondary processed products, salami exports rank twelfth globally, while only Italy and Spain outperform Hungary in terms of value per tons among major exporters.