Hungary Newsflash Week 40

Pig sector subsidies, nutrient regulation change, struggling fertilizer producers, apple orchard plantation grants - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Green apples.
©Dan Gold
While normally, Hungary produces between 500 and 600 thousnd tons of apples annually, this figure varied greatly in recent years. With the funding of a new public program, 885 hectares of new apple orchards are expected to be planted in the coming period.

Extra support for the pig sector

State Secretary Zsolt Feldman of the Ministry of Agriculture has announced this week that €11.1 million will be allocated in additional financial support to producers in the pig sector in the last months of the year. With this, animal welfare subsidies in the sector will total €57.9 million in 2021.

The first stage of the additional financial support measures is a €8.9 million animal welfare subsidy for fattening pigs. Furthermore, in the 2021/2022 support budget, from the second quarter applications, €2.2 billion will be disbursed as advance payment from the transitional support framework.

Lastly, a new, heavily subsidized loan scheme was also announced, in which the government will provide 100% interest, guarantee and administrative fee support to pig farmers.

State Secretary Feldman has also commented that the compensation measures aimed to aid the pig sector were made necessary by the hardships of the past period: The steep rise of feed costs, animal safety lockdowns and the market effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annual manure dispersal prohibition period delayed by a month

Due to Hungary’s changing weather, authorities have changed the regulations of fertilizer dispersal, delaying the annual winter prohibition of the dispersal of manure. The reason for this is that with the changing climate, the relatively warm weather in the fall now extends the window for the development of plants.

The changing of the regulation was preceded by extensive scientific research, with a focus on the protection of surface waters from nitrate contamination and the overall reduction of emissions, in line with EU directives. Various scientific institutions contributed to the background research of the amendment of the nitrate act.

Following the amendment, the new starting day of the winter prohibition of the dispersal of manure will now be November 30. Normally, the prohibition lasts until February 15, but in the case of winter cereals, it ends on January 30.

What field with the backdrop of the setting sun
©Mika Luoma
A recent amendment to the nutrition regulations extends the annual time window for fertilization and manure dispersal, due to the changing weather allowing for a longer period for the growing of winter crops in the fall.

Rising gas prices might shut down Hungarian fertilizer production entirely

In a recent interview, László Bige, owner of the largest Hungarian fertilizer producer, Nitrogénművek, has stated that the company will soon be forced to shut down its operations due to rising input costs, reports the news portal 444.hu.

As European gas prices are rising to all-time highs following the massive drop of Russian exports, fertilizer prices tripled on the market. Hungarian farmers are now trying to adapt to the market shortage while producers are shutting down. Nitrogénművek, which has already decreased its production, is now contemplating its imminent shutdown.

While the price of gas was €90.4 per megawatt hours at the end of day on Monday, Tuesday started with a price of €97/MWh and in the afternoon the price already approached €117/MWh. As gas is the primary input component of fertilizer, this puts manufacturers in a precarious position.

“In the case of Pétisó [the company’s fertilizer brand], every €1 increase in the price of gas leads to a €4 increase in the per ton production cost of the fertilizer,” Mr. Bige also told the press.

Mr. Bige also added that these developments will lead to massive fertilizer shortages on the European market and that if the winter will be cold, Europe will use more gas for heating, and fertilizer prices will double by the next spring.

885 hectares of new apple orchards to be planted

This year, a new plantation program might lead to the plantation of new apple orchards totaling in 885 hectares, according to the plans of the Ministry of Agriculture at least. Normally, Hungary would be able to reasonably produce 500 to 600 thousand metric tons of apples, however, in the past fifteen years, yields varied drastically, between 170 thousand and 780 thousand tons. Last year’s figure was 400 thousand tons, out of which 270 thousand tons were used in the fresh food sectors and 130 thousand tons went to industrial use.

Minister István Nagy stated that from Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, more than 770 farmers have successfully applied for support in the program. Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, in Eastern Hungary, is the powerhouse of Hungarian apple production.