Hungary Newsflash Week 20

Avian influenza updates, spring crop figures, animal welfare, a precision agriculture grant scheme, honey troubles, new subsidies, meat sector investment and drought-resistant biotech research - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Green sprouts
©Francesco Gallarotti
The sowing of crops is progressing well in the fields. As the weather improved, farmers were able to make up for lost time. The winter crops are also growing at a satisfying rate.

Weekly briefing

  • Pandemic update: The proportion of positive coronavirus tests fell below 5% on Saturday, as 718 new corona-virus cases were diagnosed in 15,826 tests. This is in line with the WHO estimate that the pandemic can be controlled with a positive test rate under a 5% threshold. Meanwhile, five million Hungarians are expected to have received at least their first vaccine injection by the final week of May, the prime minister’s chief of staff has said. For the news about the partial HORECA reopening, see our last Newsflash.
  • Avian influenza: On May 16, the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) has lifted the restrictive measures, as well as disbanded the observation areas in Hajdú-Bihar County, in Eastern Hungary. Previously, highly pathogenic Avian influenza was found at a turkey farm in the county in April. (See more in our Week 15 Newsflash) The current lifting of measures was based on the fact that no new cases have been found for over a month. Following international regulations, the earliest date for Hungary to regain its status of freedom from the livestock disease is now August 13.
  • Poultry sector: In connection with the above-mentioned lack of Avian influenza cases, NÉBIH has lifted restrictions imposed due to the Avian influenza situation. Farmers are no longer required to keep poultry in enclosures. Feeding and watering should still take place in a closed space.
  • Field crops: The Ministry of Agriculture is launching a subsidy scheme with a financial envelope of €142.5 for the support of crop storage, drying and cleaning facilities under the Renewable Countryside, Renewable Agriculture program. The professional cleaning, storage and drying of crops is a key issue in raising the technological standard of arable crop production. Quality preservation and mitigation of storage loss can only be achieved by using state-of-the-art drying and cleaning equipment in storage facilities with the appropriate technical standards.
  • Meat sector: The meat industry company Kometa 99 Zrt. has launched a new byproduct-processing plant. The company’s slaughterhouse annually produces 8 thousand tons of byproducts, which presented a logistical and environmental challenge in the past. The company’s new processing plant was a €4 million investment, co-financed by the government’s economic development and innovation program (GINOP). This new plant will be able to annually process 15 thousand tons of meat industry waste and byproducts. The company expects an annual €1.85 million extra profit from the venture.
  • Precision agriculture: A Hungarian agro machinery manufacturer told the agro news portal Magyar Mezőgazdaság that a new grant scheme is expected to be announced this summer, subsidizing farmers’ acquisition of precision agriculture machinery. According to the news portal, farmers might expect prices reduced by as high as 50-80% due to the upcoming subsidy package.
  • Animal husbandry: A new grant scheme was announced for the modernization of small animal farms with a financial envelope of €85.6 million. Owners of small animal farms (poultry, pigs, cattle, sheep and goats) may now apply for subsidized co-financing of infrastructural modernization for up to 50% subsidization for modernization and machinery acquisition.
Honey producer in an apiary inspecting a beehive
©Bianca Ackermann
Honey producers are facing tough times. Many hives died out and the spring frosts gravely damaged prospective honey yields. Due to increasing demand in Western EU member states, Hungary might practically run out of acacia honey this year.

Honey producers in a tight spot

Due to this year's unusually cold spring, experts say that there will be hardly any rapeseed honey produced in Hungary this year, and acacia honey yield will be far below the 10,000 tons of an average year. The frosts in early April have wiped out 70-80% of the acacia buds across the country.

Hungary’s beekeepers are facing other difficulties as well. A significant portion of domestic bee colonies, some 230-250,000 hives, died out by the end of winter, and many weakened colonies were liquidated by beekeepers. This means that instead of the usual number of around 1.2 million hives, the sector started the spring season with only 800,000 bee colonies.

The projected decline in production numbers in the acacia season is expected to cause further turbulences in the market. The fall in yields in recent years has led to the depletion of stocks both on the producer and the retail side. This year, the price of acacia honey is expected to be permanently above €8.5/kg.

If the spring is not favorable to acacia honey production throughout the rest of Europe, it is possible that demand from Western Europe will drive up export prices to the point where later in the year, Hungary will practically run out of acacia honey.

Agro R&D – Drought-resistance boosting technology for the crops of the future

The company SeqOmics Kft., based in Mórahalom, Csongrád-Csanád County, South-Eastern Hungary, is now developing a new technology for the protection of plants from extensive droughts.

In the past decades, extended water-stressed periods increased in length and frequency in Europe, and current models project that in Hungary, summers will continue to grow hotter, with less and less precipitation, which will further increase the length of droughts.

The new tech will be a microbial root-colonizing seed protection biological agent. The total budget of the project is €875.5 thousand, and the company received a governmental grant of €604.8 thousand for the funding of their research. The Hungarian-owned company SeqOmics was founded in 2009 with the goal of becoming a Central European champion of cutting-edge next-gen genome sequencing.

Spring sowing makes good time

According to a recent report by the National Chamber of Agriculture (NAK), spring sowing works have progressed very well in the past weeks. As the weather was more favorable for work in the fields in the end of April and the first half of May, farmers could make up for time lost to the cold and dry weather earlier this spring.

The sowing of cereals, green peas and sugar beet has been completed, the sowing of sunflowers and potatoes are now at 97%, maize is at 94% and soy beans are at 84%.

This spring, 995 thousand hectares of land have been sown with maize, 650 thousand with sunflowers and 57 thousand with soy beans.

According to Minister for Agriculture István Nagy, there has been enough precipitation in April and May for winter cereals to grow at a healthy rate, and rapeseed is also growing neatly, although its flowering period was delayed by the cold weather. As things stand, there are no risk factors endangering this year’s harvest, added the Minister.

€400 thousand for animal welfare

Following an online survey by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministerial Commissioner for Social Relations Zsolt Nyitrai in which 97.9% of the 250 thousand responders replied that they supported more aid to animal welfare groups, the government has initiated a new grant scheme with an envelope of €401.4 thousand for the financial aid of 67 animal welfare NGOs throughout Hungary.

According to the official statement, there is a rising trend of responsible animal ownership in Hungary and adopting pets from animal shelters is also becoming more popular, and domestic animal welfare organizations go over and beyond in providing welfare for animals.