Hungary will not reintroduce import ban on Ukrainian honey despite protests

By Thomson Reuters Mar 26, 2024 | 5:09 AM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will not reintroduce a ban on honey imported from Ukraine despite demands by honey farmers who have protested saying cheap honey from Ukraine pushed down prices and threatens to drive them out of business.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government imposed a ban on imports of 24 agricultural products from Ukraine last year including grains, pork, and also honey. On Feb. 19 it abolished the import ban on honey, triggering protests from the country’s around 22,000 beekeepers.

Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy told Reuters the unilateral import ban failed to have a positive impact on the local market as wholesale purchase prices have not increased to the extent that local farmers hoped for, while it hurt companies who packaged and exported honey to the EU.

He said honey exporters needed the Ukrainian honey as they would not be able to meet contracted deliveries otherwise.

“As the closure (ban) could no longer support the interests of Hungarian beekeepers, it had no palpable impact, we did not want to create even bigger problems … that’s why we had to reopen our market,” Nagy said.

When asked if the government would consider reintroducing the import ban, he said “no, as it has no impact.”

Most honey imports into the EU come from China and Ukraine. Ukrainian imports accounted for 25% of the EU’s honey imports in January-August 2023, according to European Commission data.

Krisztian Kisjuhasz, a beekeeper in the village of Ladanybene, has 110 beehives and says current wholesale purchase prices do not even cover his costs. Kisjuhasz took part in farmers’ protests near the Ukrainian border in early February.

“What we want is … to prevent Ukrainian honey entering the European or at least Hungarian market at cheap prices, in order to protect our market as prices have been stuck (low) for 2 years,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the future will be that beekeepers who have earned their livelihood from this, will be forced … to take up other jobs and continue honey farming as a hobby as we won’t be able to sell our honey in large quantities,” Kisjuhasz said.

He said the biggest problem besides the Ukrainian imports was cheap Chinese honey flooding the EU’s markets.

(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo, writing by Krisztina Than; editing by David Evans)