Hungary: Avian influenza effects showing, poultry livestock shrinks

Farmers started protesting, the government is scrambling to find a solution

Close-up of domestic geese.
Beeld: ©Marko Tuđan

The latest figures by Hungary’s Central Statistical Office (KSH) show that poultry livestock figures have gone through drastic fluctuations in the past five years, and have dropped significantly by 2021. Experts in the sector blame recurring Avian influenza outbreaks as the main reason of this population decline. In 2021, two major outbreak series occurred, in the spring and in the fall.

In 2015, there were around one million geese in the poultry sector, which increased to 1.2 to 1.3 million heads in the following years. In 2020, the geese population shrunk by 29%, to 798 thousand heads. The population of ducks has shown even more volatility, its peak was in 2018 with 4.9 million heads. In 2020, the duck population declined by 32% to 2.98 million heads.

Avian influenza is a cardinal issue for Hungary’s waterfowl sector. According to the news portal Agrárszektor, throughout the Avian influenza outbreaks of 2020, almost 3.2 million heads of poultry livestock had to be culled.

These measures, combined with rising input costs and inflation, are causing serious problems for the sector. Many operators are planning on either downsizing or terminating their business. The farmers are also reporting that subsidies in the sector have been insufficient and that they have been a fraction of what they are actually entitled to.

Poultry farmers held a protest on February 4 in Mélykút, Bács-Kiskun County, Southern-Central Hungary. Due to this protest, Minister for Agriculture István Nagy announced new subsidies for the sector, worth €5.36 million in total. However, the effectiveness of this stop-gap measure is now in question. Agrárszektor reports that the leadership of the largest domestic duck and goose alliances (both parts of the umbrella organization Poultry Product Council) have resigned from their positions.

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