Hungary hit with trade bans following bird flu outbreak

By Jaroslaw Adamowski

- Last updated on GMT

The H5N8 bird flu strain has torn through eight European countries, including Germany
The H5N8 bird flu strain has torn through eight European countries, including Germany

Related tags Poultry meat European union Hungary Livestock Poultry

Seven non-EU member states and territories have banned Hungarian poultry imports after an outbreak of the avian influenza (AI) strain H5N8 at a Hungarian turkey farm in Békés.

Third countries indicated that they are temporarily prohibiting the imports of live poultry and poultry meat products from Hungary or the county in question,​” the state-run National Food Chain Safety Office (NFCSO) said in a statement.

Hungarian poultry imports banned

The first three countries outside the European Union that decided to place such a ban were South Africa, Israel and Japan, in addition to Hong Kong. These were followed by Canada, Serbia and Singapore, according to the Budapest-based institution.

With the aim of preventing the spread of the disease to other farms, Hungarian veterinary authorities have ordered the killing of 9,000 turkeys.

A second outbreak of the disease was found at a duck farm in Bács-Kiskun municipality, in the country’s southern region. As part of containment measures, a protection zone with a radius of 3 kilometres (km), as well as a surveillance zone with a radius of 10km were placed around both farms, the state-run office said.

Békés and Bács-Kiskun are located 192km and 120km respectively from the country’s capital Budapest.

Call for national measures

In order to minimise the economic damage at national level, the chief veterinarian has called for the establishment of a national centre for disease control and the implementation of a crisis management plant,​” according to the statement.

Set up in March 2012 and based in Budapest, the NFCSO was established through a merger of two institutions, the country’s Central Agricultural Office and the Hungarian Food Safety Office.

Domestic poultry consumption could fall

On a related note, it is unclear how the latest H5N8 outbreak​ will affect Hungary’s poultry meat export sales and domestic consumption this year. It is noteworthy that poultry meat remains the most popular type of meat in the Hungarian market, with an annual consumption of about 32kg per capita, and precedes pork, with an average consumption of about 28kg per year, according to data released by local industry association Poultry Products Council (BTT).

Earlier this year, Attila Csorbai, president of BTT, told local journalists that Hungary’s poultry meat sales were expected to expand by up to 5% next year. Local industry representatives expect the increase will be mostly driven by the government’s decision to cut the value-added tax (VAT) on this kind of meat starting in 2017.

The cabinet hopes that the cut will stimulate the domestic consumption of poultry meat, as well as combat tax evasion in the sector. The new tax rate will begin to be applied by the country’s Ministry of Finance on 1 January 2017.

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