Prof. Univ. Dr. Sándor Kukovics is one of the most important international specialists in the field of animal husbandry and coordinator of the sheep / goat sector in Hungary.
RALF: What are your advice for zootechnical farmers in the new economic context?
Sándor Kukovics: There is a rather interesting situation where direct sales have a rather limited opportunity to reach the final consumer due to the closed markets. There are few sheep and goat keepers who are not adversely affected by the current situation. Due to the limited operation of slaughterhouses, sales for meat are only possible for farm slaughter, which is only a semi-legal activity as required by regulators. At the same time, live sheep sales and exports have fortunately been steady in recent weeks due to transportation facilitations. The problem is the unpredictable demand of the traditional Italian market for exports, but fortunately the shift to exports to alternative markets has started, which has helped a lot in the situation of sheep farmers. However, milk sales are in a less favourable position due to the sudden disappearance of consumers (HORECA sector, tourism).
The sale of milk is less of a problem for sheep’s milk, because processors make products with a longer shelf life anyway, and they can buy them until their storage is full of finished products. Sales from home processing to the direct consumer affect only a few farms. In the case of goat’s milk, the problems are much greater. Only those producers were able to find a bridging solution that formed their customer base and were able to serve them by sending a direct package or home delivery. Fortunately, some markets are slowly reopening and worries are easing somewhat, but unfortunately, a significant proportion of consumers have seen their earnings on such products fall.
RALF: What does 2020 look like for agriculture in Hungary?
Sándor Kukovics: Agriculture in general is currently showing a mixed picture. Crop production is waiting for helping rain because rainfall deficits can significantly reduce productivity. There is also little moisture in the soil to germinate spring sowings. Flower gardeners have come close to bankruptcy in recent months and it is not yet known what the rest of the year will bring them. Spring frosts have caused significant damage to orchards, and the lack of spring rain is also present here. Animal husbandry is faced with a number of problems. In addition to the decline in meat consumer demand, products (pork, poultry) that have become overproduced in other countries for similar reasons are appearing on domestic markets, which are depressing prices. There are also relatively fewer problems in beef production because export channels are free. In addition, there are occasional problems with poultry keeping (poultry flu). Fortunately, in milk production (cow’s milk) there is relative stability in prices as well as in demand. For all sectors, the future is questionable due to the possible protracted nature of the current pandemic.
RALF: What is your message to farmers in the current context?
Sándor Kukovics: Despite exit restrictions, consumers want to stay alive, which is what they need for agricultural and food products. Even if the demand for luxury products declines due to the narrowing of consumers’ pockets, everyone needs basic food. Restrictions will hopefully be released slowly, and smaller retail stores will open and life can start slowly. EU and national action will reduce the problems that have arisen and help them to survive. Fortunately, international food deliveries have remained steady despite the epidemic – apart from the difficult lives of truck drivers at delivery companies. However, past demand is recovering only slowly, so where possible, larger reserves need to be built up for the future.
Prof. Univ. Dr. Sándor Kukovics participated as Speaker at the Romanian Agriculture Leadership Forum RALF 2017. The 2020 edition will take place on November 20, at the JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel.