Hungary Newsflash Week 14, 2022

A precision pilot project to be launched, dairy and cereal prices rising, the effects of the war on the pig sector, a new subsidy for goat and sheep husbandry and issues with illegal waste dumping - The week in Hungarian agriculture

A drone flying over a field
Beeld: ©DJI-Agras
A new pilot project in Southwestern Hungary will focus on introducing precision methods in farming, provide courses to farmers and measure local experience in the area of digital farming methods.

Precision farming pilot project to be launched

The Hungarian University of Life Sciences and Health (MATE), together with the Central Danubian Development Agency is launching a one-year education and development pilot project near the region of Paks, Tolna County, in Southern Transdanubia, South-Western Hungary, reports the news portal Magyar Mezőgazdaság.

The organizers of the project highlight that the Central Danubian region is Hungary’s newest priority development area which encompasses ninety-nine villages and towns.

The project will focus on education, knowledge transfer and development in the areas of climate resilience, irrigation and precision agriculture and its goal is to develop best practices which can be later scaled up for national-level implementation.

According to Dr. Krisztina Tóth, head of the center responsible for adult learning and advisory services at MATE, the project will involve “interactive, practice-centered programs which will also be supported by local institutions, educators and advisors.”

Farmers who participate in the pilot project will be able to attend courses on farm management software, the usage of farming data in digitalized machinery and the usage of farming drones, according to Dr. László Máthé, head of MATE’s Foreign Relations and Coordination Center.

The organizers also stated that the pilot project will also focus on development, making the region “more attractive to young people and investors,” and will also involve an environmental rehabilitation project focusing on the restoration of the local backwaters of the River Danube.

Throughout the project the organizers will measure farmers’ attitudes on precision farming and three farms – From the areas of field crop farming, horticulture and animal husbandry, respectively – will be assigned to be the first pioneer implementers of the new precision methods included in the project.

Dairy prices increasing

While input costs are rising in the dairy industry, plant-based alternatives are increasing in market share in Hungary. In 2021, plant-based replacement products for dairy desserts, ice cream, milk, cream, whipped cream and yogurt increased by 22%.

The price of raw cow’s milk is also rising and the prices of dairy products started to rise as well. Although the consumer price of 2.8% fat cow’s milk is fixed by the government’s price capping measure, this does not extend to the prices of other dairy products.

According to the latest data by the Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI), the price of raw cow’s milk was €0.35 per kilogram in February 2022, which is a 3% increase from the January figures and a 20% increase y-o-y. Compared to January, the purchased quantity of raw milk dropped by 6%, however, it increased by 2% compared to February, 2021.

The mean export price of raw cow’s milk was €0.39/kg, which is a 3% increase m-o-m and 32% y-o-y. The export price was also 12% higher than the producer price in February.

The prices of dairy products are high. The consumer price of regular cheese is €8.17/kg, the price of cottage cheese is around €1.35 per quarter-kilo pack, cream is between €0.3-€3.20 per pack depending on brand and size and a carton of milk costs between €0.6-€1.4.

Cereal prices remain high

Based on data from the fourth week of March, the price of wheat is now €310.42 per metric ton in Hungary (excluding VAT and transfer prices), which is a 59% y-o-y increase.

The price of feed corn is €308.9 per ton (excl. VAT and transfer), which is a 62% y-o-y increase.

According to projections by the French market analysis company Tallage, the mild winter weather and the dry period both affected this year’s spring crop yields, especially in Southern and in Central Europe. In Hungary, the projected wheat harvest yield figure for this spring is 5.1 million tons.

A block of cheese.
Beeld: ©Alex Klen
The producer price of raw cow's milk is increasing - And the prices of dairy products are rising as well.

The war is affecting the Hungarian pig sector as well

As the war in Ukraine continues, alongside the humanitarian crisis, the conflict has also had massive economic effects that can be felt in the wider region. The news portal Agroinform has approached the Hungarian Animal Husbandry Alliance to inquire about the war’s impact on the domestic pig sector.

The industrial alliance has stated that the input cost increases incurred by rising cereal prices are continuing to cause an issue. This is due in part to the war but another factor was the dry weather the region experienced this winter and in the spring period. Furthermore, there is a shortage of additives as well.

Pork prices, however, started to climb. In four weeks, the per kilogram price of pork went from an average of €0.94 to €1.57. This price increase follows the recent trend in Germany where pork prices rose by 60% in six weeks.

The alliance further commented that the solution to many problems in the pig sector would be widespread modernization in order to increase productivity and production efficiency, however, many pig farmers lag behind in these investments and many developments have been hindered or completely halted by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The alliance also blames the EU however for their “not thought-through climate and animal welfare policies (which are not based on background studies).”

Moreover, the animal husbandry alliance further stated that the pig sector is currently too much of a risk for the banking industry, that “commercial banks now hesitate to finance pig farmers, because they find the sector risky.”

The Agroinform article also relays the alliance’s projection that the price of pig thigh (ham/hock) will start to rise once the food price cap measure is lifted.

The new goat and sheep alliance’s push for subsidies came to fruition

In September, 2019, a new industrial alliance called “For the Sheep and Goat Industry Foundation” was established, which was officially recognized as an industrial union in June, 2020.

The new alliance focuses on the popularization of sheep and goat husbandry, the reduction of bureaucratic burdens in the industry, the monitoring of the production and market conditions and to represent the industry by developing policy suggestions.

As an outcome of their lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture has recently announced a new animal husbandry subsidy with a financial envelope of €13.22 million titled “Small Ruminant Animal Subsidy,” for the support of the production of goat, lamb and mutton.

The alliance is also planning to expand and continues to provide its members with downloadable contract materials to support businesses.

ITM: €21 million for the cleanup of illegal waste dumping sites

The Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM) has announced last week that throughout their program titled “Let’s clean up the country!” around €21 million has been spent on the cleaning up of around 300 thousand tons of illegally dumped waste in rural Hungary.

According to the mayor of a town in Tolna county, they have had issues with companies that had licenses for waste storage and processing, however, processing never took place and a company bringing in waste from Italy had to be fined.

János Süli, minister in charge of the enlargement of the Paks nuclear power plant has called for stricter regulations and higher fines for the illegal dumping of waste.