Hungary Newsflash Week 10

Avian influenza news, COVID-19 measures, food price increases, pandemic effects in the dairy sector, bluetongue disease update and online farming - The week in Hungarian agriculture

A bouqet of tulips
©Christo Anestev
As a part of the COVID-19 recovery package, floricultural retail enterprises will be exempt from employment taxes.

Weekly briefing

  • Avian influenza: The National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) has declared the lifting of the last observation areas in Bács-Kiskun County. The reason for this is that no new case has been observed in the county since February 3. With this, domestic trade as well as selling to the EU can recommence, however, third-country export restrictions may still remain in place in the future. The news portal Agrárszektor reports that according to OIE regulations, the earliest possible date of declaring Hungary free of Avian influenza is May 23, 2021.
  • Floriculture: In a recent decree, the Hungarian government added floricultural retail enterprises to the list of companies eligible to COVID-19 economic relief. According to this regulation amendment, entrepreneurs engaged in the retail trade of flowers, wreaths and decorative plants are eligible for exemption from employment taxes.
  • Governmental measures: On March 8, new restrictive measures entered into force for two weeks in Hungary. The government communicated that their goal is to break the third wave of the pandemic. These include: Mandatory mask wearing in all public spaces, the closure of shopping malls and non-essential shops, the transitioning of all educational institutions into online education, but kindergartens and daycare can stay open.
  • Dairy industry: RTL Klub reports that the domestic dairy stakeholders are now forecasting increase in the prices of dairy products in the coming period. The domestic union Dairy Product Council stated that due to higher animal feed prices increasing input costs in the supply chain, production costs in the dairy industry have increased by 20-30%. According to the Central Statistical Office (KSH), in January, the price of long-life milk increased by 2.1%, and the price of semi-hard cheese increased by 7.2%. An average Hungarian family spends around €355 on dairy products annually.
  • Food industry & Grocery retail: According to KSH, consumer prices increased by a mean of 3.1% in February in Hungary. Out of food products, the price of sunflower oil increased by 25.1%, the increase was 9.9% for sugar, 8% for workplace catering, 7.1% for flour, and 5.8% for horticultural produce, out of which, the price increase of fruits alone was 17.3%.
  • Women in agriculture: On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we interviewed women entrepreneurs from agro sectors who shared their insight on the challenges and opportunities women face in Hungarian agriculture. See our article here.
  • Horticulture & Organic farming: The Hungarian company Veresi Paradicsom Kft., a premium tomato producers, has recently received Koppert Biological Systems’ “Mother Earth” award for their prominent role in the fields of organic plant protection and natural pollination. See more about this here.

Agricultural retailers exempt from lockdown

While non-essential shops and shopping malls are now being closed down for the next two weeks, as the spring season work commences in agriculture, the stricter lockdown measures do not apply to stores and service providers in the agriculture industry. Stores selling agricultural and forestry materials and equipment and animal feed, gardening stores and tree nurseries, local and farmers’ markets, veterinary pharmacies can remain open during the lockdown period.

Companies providing the following services will also be allowed to continue to operate: Agricultural machinery repair; veterinary service; veterinary, phytosanitary and food safety lab testing; food processing; mass catering; animal husbandry-related services.

Close-up of a grazing cow just licking its nose and chilling.
©Mabel Amber
With the Commission's recognition of Hungary's freedom from the bluetongue disease, the transportation of live cattle to other member states will now require simpler protocols.

Hungary officially free of bluetongue disease

The European Commission confirmed the recognition of Hungary’s freedom of the bluetongue disease. The livestock disease, which mainly affects cattle and sheep stocks, first appeared in the country in 2015. This led to strict regulations in the transportation of live animals to other EU member states, including vaccination, blood testing and mandatory treatments for mosquito bites.

Hungary has first declared its compliance with the conditions for recognition of the status of freedom from the disease set by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Following the completion of another series of tests required by the EU, the country declared its results to the Commission in the end of 2020. The EC officially recognized Hungary’s recovery of freedom from the disease in the end of February. State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Norbert Erdős, who is in charge of food chain safety supervision commented that the main positive outcome of this recognition is a simplification in the procedures of live animal transport.

Online farm going strong

MyFarm Harta might sound like the title of a weird farming simulator video game to pass the time during the pandemic lockdown but it’s actually an online social farming project in which customers can rent garden space in a thousand-square-meter land parcel owned by a family of professional growers in Harta, Bács-Kiskun County in South-Central Hungary. The owners cultivate the rented garden space and deliver the harvested produce to their customers, reports the news portal Telex.

The MyFarm Harta project recently issued a press release stating that they are now starting the third season of the online social gardening project – In which the service comes with total transparency in the form of web cameras overlooking the property through which customers can follow the work of the farmers 24/7. 10% of the produced goods are automatically shipped to NGOs organizing food donations. So far, two tons of vegetables and two thousand eggs have gone to charity.

The press release also states that following the success of the first two seasons of the project, a crowdfunding campaign was launched, which enabled the launch of six new similar projects throughout the country and a foundation providing the framework for their management was also established. The press release highlights that the goal of the foundation is to “establish as many environmentally conscious vegetable gardens as possible.”