Hungary: Nature, wildlife, sustainability, and the biomass discrepancy

Question marks around Hungarian biomass production, a new wildlife crime prosecution report, final figures from the cereal harvest, new numbers on Hungary's international trade - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary.

The silhouette of a red deer bull, with antlers, against the backdrop of the sunset sky
Beeld: ©Diana Parkhouse
A new study by the organizations TRAFFIC and WWF Hungary has found that the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime in Hungary could improve further.

Cereal harvest figures

It seems that the summer drought and climate change have taken a terrible toll on arable farming and cereal cultivation in Hungary this year. New figures have been published by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) for the harvest yields of the main cereals of the country: wheat, barley, rye, oat and triticale. The harvest did not reach 6 million tons and the average yield was 4.4 tons per hectare.

The most prominent cereal cultivated in Hungary is wheat. The total wheat yield of the country was 4.2 million tons this year, a decrease of 21% y-o-y, even though the total land area under wheat increased by 6.5% to 951 thousand hectares.

According to the statistical office, the total barley yield of the country decreased by 10% y-o-y, which is mainly due to the higher base figure of 2021. However, compared to averages in the past five years (2017-2021), Hungary’s barley production increased by 7.8%, to 1.5 million tons.

Averages for rye, oats and triticale have decreased by 9%, 22%, and 24%, respectively, compared to 2021. The total harvest yield of rye was 57.6 thousand tons, the country’s oats harvest came to 37.6 thousand tons and the figure for triticale was 171.6 thousand tons.

Hungary profits €2.1 billion from agriculture exports in first half of 2022

A recent overview by the Research Institute for Agriculture Economics (AKI) found that in the first half of 2022, the agriculture and food industries in Hungary have generated a net export balance of €2.136 billion.

The total aggregate export of the agriculture and food industries of the country was €6.52 billion, the total import was €4.38 billion. The value of imports increased by 34.1% y-o-y, while the value of the export increased by 26.1%. Agriculture and food industry products make up 6.1% of Hungary’s total import and 9.4% of the country’s total export.

The increased value of imports was mostly due to the increasing value of imported commodities and goods, primarily, animal feed, oily seeds and meats, the only imported category which saw a decrease in value was tobacco products.

The export value of meats increased by 8.9%, while their import value increased by 42.7%. The value of exported dairy, eggs and honey increased by almost 50%, the value of imports increased by 24.4%.

The export and import values of vegetables and legumes increased by 8.1% and 16.7%, respectively. One category in which the value of export increased more than the value of import was sugar and sugar products (38.3% and 36.8%, respectively).

In the case of cereals however, while the value of exports increased by 10.1%, the value of imports increased by 114.5%.

Biomass sustainability – Discrepancies muddle the picture

The news portal recently reported on the state of sustainable biomass usage in Hungary, based on a publication by WWF Hungary. The article highlights that three-quarters of biomass used in sustainable energy production is solid mass. This puts a burden on forests.

According to the article, the government’s view is that logging makes up for 7.5 million m3 annually, compared to 13 million m3 of annual growth in the country’s forests. However, energy statistics suggest twice as much biomass consumption.

WWF Hungary and the Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research (REKK) has investigated this discrepancy over the past two years. According to Ádám Harmat, climate protection program director at WWF Hungary, there is no information on the source of about 40% of the biomass consumed in the country – Either one of the forestry or the energy statistics might be flawed. However, investigating these discrepancies would require willingness from the government, commented the expert.

The investigators found a similar conflict between the government’s forestry and climate protection plans. Mr. Harmat concludes that, “We are trying to both rely on forestry biomass as an energy source while simultaneously increase the carbon sequestration capacity of our forests. The two go against each other. In order to increase carbon sequestration, we need to decrease logging not increase it. Without that, the 2050 carbon neutrality goal will be unachievable. Modernizing the residential buildings that rely on firewood while decreasing logging would also ensure a transition without market shortages.”

The state of wildlife crime in Hungary

A new report has been published by the organizations TRAFFIC and WWF Hungary titled Analysis of the effectiveness of wildlife crime prosecution in Hungary, a national report that is part of the SWIPE: Successful Wildlife Crime Prosecution in Europe project.

The study authors investigated wildlife crime prosecution in the 2015-2020 period in Hungary. According to the study, the framework is suitable for effectively fighting wildlife crime in the country, however, the number of uninvestigated cases remains high and also, many discovered and investigated cases of wildlife crime do not make it to court.

In Hungarian criminal law, there are “penalties” and “measures”. In court cases, the most frequent criminal penalties imposed was imprisonment (47%), however, out of 63 cases only in three did the judiciary order the sentence of imprisonment to be served. 36% of the cases ended with a financial penalty, 4% ended with disqualification from employment, expulsion and community sentences made up 1% each.

Out of all criminal law measures, 44% has been probation, 24% has been confiscation, 14% reprimands, 14% supervised probation, exclusion from public affairs was imposed in 10% of the cases while confiscation of assets and reparation work has been issued in 1% of the cases each.

The report concludes that more work should be done on the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime in the country. However, the number of investigated and prosecuted cases has been increasing – From 2017, the database of the study includes 83 wildlife crime cases, from 2020 however, this figure is 157.

The study, both in Hungarian and in English, can be found following this link.