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Farmers see stock of laying hens falling

The number of laying hens in Hungary has dropped dramatically since the country joined the European Union, and it could fall even further from 2012, when many poultry farmers will have to change the way they raise their livestock to meet stricter EU rules, industry insiders said at an event on Monday to mark World Egg Day.

The number of laying hens in Hungary has fallen to about 2,265,000 from 3,470,000 in 2004, when Hungary joined the EU, said Hungarian Egg Association deputy chief Attila Thury.

Hungarian poultry farmers produce an annual 2.4 billion-2.5 billion eggs, but a further 200 million must be imported to meet domestic demand. About 45% of eggs produced in Hungary are raised by smallholders.

The number of laying hens could fall by as much as 1 million as poultry farmers unable to pay for HUF 20 billion-22 billion in investments necessary to meet new EU requirements are forced out of the business, said Egg Association consultant Péter Földi.

The new rules stipulate that, from 2012, laying hens must be raised in a colony system rather than in cages.

Hungary's 10 million inhabitants consume about 270 eggs per person each year. (MTI – Econews)