Hungary's only fertilizer producer shuts down after 93 years

Avian influenza spreading at alarming rate; harvest figures show change in trends; agriculture university concludes circularity project - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary.

A tractor in a green field pulls a trailer which is spraying nitrogen fertilizer
Beeld: ©James Baltz

Nitrogénművek, Hungary’s only fertilizer producer, shuts down

László Bige, CEO of Nitrogénművek, Hungary’s only fertilizer producer, has confirmed to Agrá that the 93-year-old company is permanently closing down operations. According to Mr. Bige, the regulation issued in July, which imposes a tax burden on the allocation and sale of carbon dioxide quotas, has created an economic environment in which it is impossible to pass on the additional costs in prices, reports the portal.

The company has ceased operations on November 6. At that time, the company communicated that the shutdown would be temporary. This week however, the CEO confirmed for the agriculture news portal that the company will not be restarting its operations. The portal stated that the July government decree 320/2023 introduced a very high additional tax of €40 on freely allocated carbon dioxide quotas, which, based on the current price of the quota, corresponds to approximately 40-50% of the value. In addition, the government decree introduced a 10% transaction fee on quota sales, which may have posed challenges to the liquidity situation of companies.

Harvest shows changing trends

The portal Agrá has reported that the final tally of Hungary’s harvest is in. According to State Secretary Zsolt Feldman of the Ministry of Agriculture, fall rains made the harvesting much more complicated and also, the „difficult situation caused by the influx of Ukrainian cereal export left a mark.”

The harvest of sunflower yielded 2 million tons of produce this year, with an average of 3 tons/hectare. In comparison, the average yield was 1.8 t/ha in 2022. In the case of soybeans, the total planted area was 58 thousand ha, the harvest was 177 thousand tons, with an average yield of 3 t/ha. The potato yield was 27 t/ha, with a total harvest yield of 161 thousand tons. (We reported on the state of potato farming and its decline in Hungary in our last weekly briefing.) Regional sunflower yields are “balanced” according to Mr. Feldman.

The average yield of maize has increased to 8 tons per hectare, 89% of the maize fields have been harvested. The total quantity has surpassed 5.3 million tons. (We have reported in May that the catastrophic 2022 European drought has drastically changed the cereal composition in Hungary and that the planting area of maize was considerably smaller this year.) Maize yields vary, in the Southern Great Plains they were as low as 6.2 t/ha, in North Hungary, and in Western Transdanubia, yields reached as high as 8.9 t/ha.

The sugar beet harvest is halfway complete, with an average yield of 58 tons per hectare, resulting in a total yield of 431 thousand tons.

Avian influenza is spreading

The National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) has announced this week that Avian influenza is spreading rapidly in Hungary. The H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic Avian influenza was recently identified at a goose farm with 6 thousand heads of livestock in Csongrád-Csanád County, in the Great Plains in South Hungary. Authorities have taken measures and assigned lockdown and observation zones.

In the past weeks, multiple incidents have been reported from fowl farms in the country. In the beginning of November, the H5N1 strain was identified at a duck farm in Hajdúnánás, in Hajdú-Bihar County, North-East Hungary. The farm had a livestock population of 22.5 thousand, and the entire stock had to be culled. A day later, the livestock disease was identified at another duck farm in Tiszadob, in neighboring Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, after testing due to high mortality and the appearance of neurological symptoms among the stock of 51 thousand ducks.

Agriculture university finishes circular economy project

The Hungarian University of Life Sciences and Health (MATE) has finished a multi-year project on the circular transition, the university informed the MTI news agency. The project, which focused on the analysis of best practices in agriculture and green waste can help in the country’s circular transition, writes OTPAgrá The project had received EU funding worth €2.3 million, writes the portal.

The program, which was launched in October 2021, led to the establishment of a new Circular Economy Analysis Center by the university. The new center analyzed and improved the waste collection procedures at the Szent István Campus in Gödöllő. Based on this, a modern composting facility was created at the university, enabling the on-site utilization of all biodegradable waste generated at the Gödöllő campus.

The press release highlights one practical outcome: With aid from “The preparatory tasks for the transition to a circular economy in the case of agricultural and green waste” project, 530 tons of waste has been recycled and kept in circulation at the EFOTT music festival in 2022, where catering services only used certified compostable packaging. The project also included a composting workshop and participation at various events.