Hungarian dairy sector went through significant changes in past two decades. The most significant changes were caused by our accession to the European Union. In Hungary milk production remarkably declined after EU accession. The size of our dairy herd has been practically reducing since the political transformation, but increasing yields per cow could compensate it in some way and for some time. However, in recent years, increasing yield per cow came to a stop and in parallel, the number of cows declined further and faster. Low prices, high production costs and tightening quality requirements ousted several producers from the market in past years. Feeding cost represents the highest rate in cost structure of production, but animal health expenditures and various losses are also significant. There are undeniably competitive disadvantages in the level of organisation and labour productivity; however competitiveness already depends on cost effectiveness in the medium run. In Hungary concentration of the dairies is relatively strong in spite of the relative high number of corporations. The dairies compete with each other and with the export market for the raw material and the better exploitation of their capacities. Applied technology of the Hungarian dairies lags behind the Western-European competitors’; in addition they have handicaps in efficiency and product innovation. Presence of chain of stores being dominant in sale of milk products does also not favour in all respects to the position of the dairies. The aforementioned retail chains are namely consumer-centric, engage in price follower conduct and weaken the position of the dairies with their private label products. As a result of increasing import of milk and milk products Hungary became a net importer in recent years. Today, disposable income still essentially determines the consumption habits of price-sensitive consumers. Loyalty for Hungarian products is not typical, consumers are open for import products being preferred by retail chains. In addition Hungarian milk and milk product consumption is about half of the Union average and it is far behind the level being necessary for healthy eating. In Hungary lack of competitiveness and vertical integration relationships and backwardness are revealing among the dairy farmers and the dairies, while chain of stores are in unprecedented “monopolistic situation”; the whole sector can be characterised by defencelessness.
The access to food shaped human societies and dietary models throughout the history of mankind. Animal protein consumption became a part of human culture. Data are presented showing the relationship of daily calorie and animal protein consumption as affected by capita GDP changes. Examples are presented how genetic improvement of animal and fodder plants influenced the resource efficiency and the overall environmental footprint per unit product. The two examples presented are: the dairy industry of the USA the 1944 and 2007 situation, and the Hungarian broiler chicken sector considering data relevant to 1930, 1960 and 2010. In both cases, dramatic improvements in resource efficiency could be demonstrated. The agricultural area required to animal feed production was reduced by more than 80% in both cases per unit product. Future possibilities are briefly discussed, referring to the still unutilized land reserves of the Globe, the new evolving technologies in progress inclusive the CASPR/Cas 9 genetic editing methods.
Although sheep breeding in Hungary is grounded in strong traditions, its activities only comprise 1% of the total production value generated from agriculture, and 2% of that for animal-based products. The most significant portion of incomes earned in the Hungarian sheep sector has, for years now, stemmed from the sale of live animals. The sector is decidedly export-oriented, as the domestic demand for its main product, i.e. lamb meat, and is minimal, equaling some 20-30dkg per person per year. Part of the sold animals is sold to market as dairy sheep, while the greater
part is sold in the category of lamb carcasses. For this reason, the average weight of slaughter sheep has lied between 19-22 kg for years now. The target markets for live lamb sales are predominately Italy and Greece. In Greece, movement on this market has shown an upward tendency in recent years; noteworthy are also sales to Austria, Holland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Poland. In 2003, we exported sheep meat in the form of carcasses to Italy, as well as to Germany, and of these exports, 94% went to Italy, while the remaining 6% went to Germany.
Among sheep products, only the trade balance for live animal sales is positive. But even for such producers, only those who are specialized in intensive breeding and those sheep farms “targeting” meat production can obtain earnings. Specialized literature on the sector argues that the quality of Hungarian lamb has diminished dramatically and is beginning to lose its market position. If Hungarian lamb does not meet market expectations, then it will only be bought from producers at lower prices.
My research focuses on those factors which influence price. I separately discuss the question of quality, as one of the most important decisive factors on price. Within this discussion, I describe the market expectations which actually have an effect on the acceptance of live animals for sale on commission. In practice, after the problems of quality, the next most important question is that of when sale is made. In the course of my research, I studied the development of averages for sales on commission of live lambs using statistical methods. The most important problem of this sector is the hierarchical system used in sales: this is the topic hich neither the producer, nor the buyer, wish to discuss, not even with each other. On the basis of the information at my disposal, I outlined the levels of traders and individual levels used to arrive at commission prices. Finally, I examined the components of the production value of live lamb sales. The results I obtained quantified the key role of the prices and the yield, as well as the factors influencing income.