Hundreds of abattoirs in Hungary have been given until the 1st of March to improve hygiene and animal welfare standards - or close. But the Hungarian government is stepping in to bail them out, with a credit line of 100 billion forints - that's almost 400 million Euros to help Hungarian businesses, including slaughterhouses, comply with the EU's food safety standards. Tibor Szanyi is state secretary in the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. He says slaughterhouses-in need- can also get help from the EU' SAPARD program.
"This money serves to help the Hungarian agricultural producers in their preparations for EU entry as well as food processing companies. The government has also foreseen to provide some additional assistance to the Hungarian agricultural producers who suffered greatly during the severe drought that we had in the last year. So the both the purpose and the beneficiaries cover a wide spectrum. But of course it intends to provide additional mounts of money especially in the capital terms."
In addition to direct agriculture producers, food-processing companies could also be the benefices of some of this credit program - namely slaughterhouses. What is the situation with regard to slaughterhouses just now prior to accession and how can this credit program help them?
"I would say that despite of the turbulence which we've seen in the past few year and even the last days, I think the overall situation is really encouraging - according to out latest survey of Hungarian food processing plants who are meeting the EU requirements. I believe that in the final months or weeks some of them who are really a bit anxious will end up with EU development programs and consequently they can remain on the safe side of the economy. You shouldn't forget though that these plants are private enterprises. So the Hungarian authorities do not have many more tools and means than any similar body in the EU to help them, namely either you either provide a license or you withdraw license - full stop. But if you take into account the over-capacity of the Hungarian slaughterhouse market, if a few plants close down, it would not harm the Hungarian export interest or internal supply demands."
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