The Hungarian ostrich industry is in a crisis as less and less people take up ostrich farming, the MTI reports on the experiences of Béla Zoufal, an ostrich farmer from eastern Hungary.
Twenty years ago there were 400-500 ostrich farms in Hungary. Today, these numbers have diminished, although 90-100 farmers still keep a few thousand birds, says Zoufal. The crisis is furthered by the fact that, in recent years, both the Hungarian Ostrich Farmers’ Non-profit Organisation and the National Ratite Marketing Board have ceased to exist.
For a long time, ostriches couldn’t be imported from Africa due to the risk of bird flu, but after the ban was lifted, the African ostrich export took off, and the price of a kilo of ostrich meat dropped from 3.5-4 euros to 1.8 euros. While last year Hungarian farmers could get 23-25 thousand forints (approx. 77 euros) for an ostrich chick, this year the price has dropped by 10 thousand forints, which generates little to no profit for breeders.
The Slovakian, Romanian, Italian, and Czech meat processing companies, who sell the Hungarian birds in Western Europe, still profit from their business, but Hungarian farmers barely make any money. There is an ostrich abattoir in Hungary which meets EU regulations, but most Hungarian farmers sell their livestock on Czech and Italian markets.
On his farm in Zagyvarékas, Béla Zoufal used to have seven bird families. Currently, he has five, and these constitute of fifteen breeding animals and their offspring. A female lays 30-70 eggs each year, and chicks hatch from approximately half of these. Breeding season lasts from early spring to late autumn. A fully grown, 10-12 months old bird stands two metres tall and measures 80-120 kilograms. 30-35pc of the animal, usually its thigh, can be sold.