Due to the pandemic Hungary can't export thousands of pheasants to the UK for use in hunting. Pheasants have been culled and over 900,000 eggs destroyed – a move that's extremely costly to rural producers.
There are about 12 large pheasant farms in Hungary - most of them are in the industry for over four decades. In an average year, they raise about 90-100 thousand hastlings, and have nearly half a million pieces of eggs: half of these are sold, the rest is incubated - explains the head of the Hubertus Hunting Association.
2020, however, is different. Given that the coronavirus lockdown occurred parallel to the hunting season, the well-established international trade route from Hungary via France to the UK couldn't function anymore.
The farmers attempted to sell the eggs to pasta factories as ingredients, but given that these eggs are not classified as food, they turned them down. Therefore, they had no choice but to destroy over 900,000 eggs around the country. The financial loss of one of the farmers is expected to be over 21 million forints (over 58 thousand euros) this year.
The problem is further exacerbated by the missing income that international hunters normally bring into the Hungarian market. By closing the borders, many foreign hunters - that are usually high profile, wealthy guests - did not come this hunting season due to the coronavirus restrictions. Even if Hungarian hunters were to take their place, the financial loss would still be enourmous, as prices dropped significantly.
"It's not only us that are in trouble, our customers and smaller hunting associations are also struggling" - said Nandor Perjesi, one of the farmers. As he pointed out, their work is part of a larger ecosystem, an interdependent chain of blocks in wildlife management. "It's a catch 22.
Hunting associations are supposed to cover the cost of damage in wildlife, however, if they didn't have any income because they couldn't hunt, they won't be able to. Consequently, other farmers', such as corn farmers' wildlife damage costs won't be covered either, which will endanger their industry, too. There will be less crop, which will negatively affect further industries."
The farm owners expect the Hungarian government to interfere in order to salvage them from bankruptcy.