Hungary Newsflash Week 2

Avian influenza, Wetskills event announcement, minimum wage negotiations, food sector news, agro R&D and insect protein production - The week in Hungarian agriculture

View of Esztergom and the River Danube
©Gábor Bejó
The Danube on a sunny day. Across the river lies Hungary, with the Basilica of Esztergom rising above the water. The River Danube has a catchment area of more than 800 thousand square kilometers, which includes the entire territory of Hungary. The upcoming Second Hungary Wetskills event will focus on the water, energy and food issues connected to natural waterways, with the topic "liveable and safe rivers."

New cases of Avian influenza

Following the January 7 announcement of the reappearance of highly pathogenic Avian influenza in Hungary (see our report here), Hungary’s National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) has announced Thursday morning the appearance of the livestock disease at a second location, a large chicken farm in Kerekegyház, Bács-Kiskun County, in Southern Hungary. Following the appearance of symptoms in the livestock, NÉBIH inspectors took samples at the farm and on Thursday, laboratory analyses confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic Avian influenza in the samples.

Veterinary officers immediately initiated strict protocols, including the termination of the livestock at the farm, more than 100 thousand chickens. A protection area within a 3-km-radius of the farm, as well as an observation area, within a radius of 10 km, have been set up.

As Avian influenza has become a global animal disease, bird migrations crossing Hungary continue to present a constant danger to domestic livestock populations. NÉBIH maintains strict regulations for the protection of livestock, including the mandatory indoor housing of poultry in order to limit contact with wild migrating birds which can easily be vectors of the disease.

Wet Skills Hungary 2021 – Applications open to young professionals

The Wetskills Foundation is organizing its second Wetskills event between April 18-30, which will also tie into the (re-scheduled) Ökoindustria Conference (April 28-30). The event will be a part of the Wetskills Europe Tour with three events in Hungary, Denmark and Romania. The theme of the event in Hungary will be “liveable and safe rivers” – And will take place in and around Budapest, the Hungarian capital situated on both banks of the River Danube, Europe’s second longest river, with a catchment area that encompasses more than 800 thousand square kilometers in Central Europe, the wider neighborhood of Hungary. As a part of the event, participants will work on real-life water-related cases in international teams, using multidisciplinary approaches.

Applications are now open to final year undergraduate, as well as graduate and doctoral students (BA, MA, PhD) who are passionate about complex issues related water, energy and food. More details on the event and application can be found following this link.

Dutch technology in Hungarian startup program

The Dutch company Agrocares B.V. has a proximal infra-red sensor technology, which has been used in the Hungarian market since 2018. However, recently, the Hungarian company Csernozjom Kft. has introduced this Dutch agro tech to the startup incubation program NAK TechLab – The startup initiative of the National Chamber of Agriculture (NAK), the largest agro sectoral alliance in Hungary. As a part of this program, the sensor has been integrated into the precision agriculture system of the company Axiál, called mAxiMap.

Precision agriculture is a fast-developing trend in Hungary. It was the central topic of our Farminar event earlier this week. While for Hungarian farmers, the adoption of precision technologies presents new possibilities to combat climate change, to maintain and increase their productivity, this trend in the sector also presents new opportunities to Dutch businesses for cooperation. The uptick in the interest in precision methods among Hungarian farmers means that there are now new frontiers open for Dutch knowledge and technologies.

A black soldier fly resting on a leaf
©Brett Hondow
Grinsect specializes in the breeding and processing of the larvae of black soldier flies. A heavy lifter in bioconversion, the species has larvae that are rich in protein, essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins, making them an excellent source of animal feed.

Food prices: Annual 4.9% increase

According to the latest figures by the Central Statistical Office (KSH), consumer prices in 2020 increased by 3.3% in total. In December, the price increase was 2.7%, reports the office. The deceleration trend can be observed in the 0.3% increase between November and December 2020. The increase in the price of food was higher than the aggregate price inflation figure with a figure of 4.9%. Within the food category, the price of oil increased by 13.7%, while the figure for fresh produce (potatoes, vegetables, domestic and import fruits) was 11.8%, 11.7% for sugar, 7.8% for luncheon meat products and sausages, 6.8% for flour, and 3.9% for pork meat. The price of poultry meat decreased by 0.9%.

Minimum wage compromise around the corner

During the latest session of the permanent consultation forum of the government and the private sphere, negotiation positions shifted closer to a compromise on the new minimum wage, reports the portal Világgazdaság. Currently, a new minimum wage of around €470 (gross) is very likely.

While the Democratic Confederation of Free Trade Unions (LIGA Alliances) maintains their proposition of a general 5% raise in the minimum wage, the National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (VOSZ) commented that instead of their proposition of a 3% raise, they would settle for a compromise of 4%.

The latest round of minimum wage negotiations between the alliances took place in December. While positions moved closer to a compromise, a deal could not be reached – Both parties expected governmental support with tax and social contribution concessions due to the pandemic crisis, but no new such measure have been introduced by the government. If a compromise can be reached then a new minimum wage might be introduced as early as February 1.

Hungary enters the insect food scene

In 2020, a new company called Grinsect founded the first insect protein producing facility in Hungary, and the company has just received seed investment from venture capital Impact Ventures, reports the portal Agrárszektor. The company has announced that with the new investment, they will commence the construction of a new facility for the breeding and processing of black soldier fly larvae which will have a production capacity of 6 metric tons per day.

According to manager Sándor Aszalai, the mission of the company is to knock down market barriers and eventually provide the animal sector with access to insect breeding and environmentally friendly protein production. Mr. Aszalai also told the news portal that they are only now facing the real challenge because although “the industry itself is only a few years old, unbelievable progress has been made in the market in the past year.” He also added that the company will commit fully to integrating insect protein into the domestic animal feed sector.

Grinsect specializes in the intensive, vertical breeding of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), which is fed with organic waste products. The species is very effective in bioconversion, turning practically any kind of organic material into high-quality protein and organic fertilizer. Its larvae are very rich in protein, essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins, making them an excellent source of livestock feed.