Hungary Newsflash Week 47

Avian influenza spreading, turkey sector pushing for reform, indogneous livestock breed subsidy announced, macro figures of the crisis year, and changing candy-consuming habits around Christmas - The week in Hungarian agriculture

Harvest in a field
Beeld: ©NOC
Despite the pandemic and climate change, Hungarian agricultural output figures increased by 4.6% in 2020.

Avian influenza reappeared and is now spreading

Last weekend Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Lajos Bognár, has introduced preventive measures on poultry farming in Bács-Kiskun County, in Central Hungary, after authorities have identified highly pathogenic Avian influenza (H5N1 strain) at ten farms in the area. An observation and protection zone was set up by the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) in which the movement of poultry as well as the introduction of new waterfowl livestock is now prohibited, with the exception of transporting livestock with the purpose of slaughter. Over the weekend, the extermination of more than 300 thousand ducks was ordered.

On Wednesday this week, NÉBIH has identified the presence of the livestock disease on poultry farms in Hajdú-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg counties, in Eastern Hungary, and the authorities have commenced the culling of 14.5 thousand meat ducks and 19.5 thousand breeding chickens in the affected areas.

The CVO has also ordered the compulsory confinement of poultry livestock in high-risk counties: Bács-Kiskun, Békés, Csongrád-Csanád, (in the south of the Hungarian part of the Pannonian Plains in Southern Hungary), Győr-Moson-Sopron and Komárom-Esztergom (in the Little Hungarian Plain in the west) and in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg in the east.

As a part of the preventive measures, containment is now mandatory at farms in the affected counties where the animals’ outdoor pens are not isolated with bird netting on the sides and top. Feeding can only be done indoors and watering from open outdoor water sources is also prohibited.

Turkey sector: Reforms needed

The domestic turkey sector alliance has elected a new president, András Muzsek, who has announced an overarching reform at the annual assembly of the industrial union with the purpose of “making the previously world-leading domestic turkey sector competitive again on the European market.”

The new alliance head Mr. Muzsek has commented that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that started last year has damaged incomes and profitability in the industry. Demand from the HORECA sectors and foreign markets have declined while production costs have increased. According to Mr. Muzsek, “the sector is in dire situation and reforms will now have to be initiated.”

According to the sectoral alliance, turkey meat production in Hungary currently stagnates, the country makes up for 4.7% of the EU’s total production, and the relative position of the domestic sector declined even further: While Hungary’s turkey meat output has fallen from an annual 143 thousand metric tons in 2004 to 100 thousand tons today, Poland’s output in the same period has increased from an annual 236 thousand tons to 376 thousand tons. The total worth of Hungary’s annual turkey meat production is €103.7 million.

Production has slightly declined further this year, the aggregate figure for Hungary is expected to be a total 97 thousand tons of output at the end of year. Mr. Muzsek believes that Hungary’s turkey production is now lagging behind in on the common market and due to an excess of supply in Europe, only the most competitively produced and priced turkey meat products can keep up in Europe’s competitive market today.

Mangalica pigs.
Beeld: ©Joachim Kohler Bremen
New breeds, including the black variety of the mangalica pig, have been added to the list of indigenous livestock eligible for subsidization.

Subsidies for the protection of indigenous livestock varieties

A new public tender was recently introduced in Hungary in which between January 3-31, farmers can apply for subsidies for the raising of indigenous livestock.

The range of indigenous livestock breeds eligible for subsidization has also been expanded with the addition of the black variety of the mangalica pig, the Akhal-Teke and Muraközi horse breeds, and the Carpathian Braunvieh cattle. The purpose of the subsidy is to support the population reconstruction effort of old, indigenous livestock varieties, and to incentivize the practice of raising them in their traditional environment with traditional farming and feeding methods.

The Ministry of Agriculture has commented that the subsidy levels for each livestock variety have been raised by an average 50%.

2020 figures are out: Hungary’s agro output increased despite the crisis

The Central Statistical Office (KSH) has published the latest macroeconomic figures on agricultural production in Hungary in 2020. According to the data, despite the global pandemic crisis, Hungary’s agricultural production output has increased by 4.6% last year.

Aside from the pandemic, farmers in Hungary faced various other challenges and crises as well – Including increasingly severe climate change-related damages and livestock diseases. (For more on this, see our 2020 retrospective article)

All in all Hungary’s agricultural output has reached a record figure of €8.044 billion in 2020. Out of this aggregate figure, 59% of the output value came from crop cultivation, 34% from animal husbandry and 7% from services and secondary activities.

Most of the value increase in the total output figure in current prices came from the production of maize, sunflower and milk. Producer prices also increased by 6.7%, increasing farmers’ profitability. However, the total output volume has decreased by 2.4%. This is mainly due to the decreased production in the sectors of fruit, fodder crops and live animals.

Despite the challenges and crises brought about by climate change, 2020 turned out to be a good year in crop cultivation. Wheat yields have gone over 5 million tons for the eighth year in a row, the volume of the maize harvest has increased by 1.6%. The value of fresh vegetable and fruit production was €819.7 million, making up for 10.2% of the total domestic agricultural output.

The output of the animal industries was €2.73 billion, the slaughter livestock output was 1.6 million tons. In total, the country produced 2 billion liters of cow’s milk and 2.5 billion chicken eggs. The gross added value of the animal industries increased by 4.5% in 2020 but decreased by 10% at constant prices.

Hungarian consumers want higher quality Christmas candies

Gábor Intődy, head of the domestic alliance of confectionery manufacturers, has stated to the press that this December, consumers are expected to purchase 8 million chocolate figurines and 3.5 thousand tons of szaloncukor.

Mr. Intődy also added that in the past few years, demand has shifted towards higher-end sweets, many consumers prefer to buy less candy while picking higher-quality products for the holiday period. Mr. Intődy commented that the industry prepares year-round for the Christmas period and in the market of szaloncukor and other candies, the number of vegan and organic products is rising. Prices, however, will slightly increase this year, due to the increase in prices of raw materials and other production costs.

Image credit: Mangalica in winter by Joachim Kohler Bremen via Wikimedia