According to official information, during the first eight months of the year, Belarus produced 113,100 tonnes (t) of pork, reflecting a drop of 21.6% year-on-year. In January-August 2014 Belarus exported only 8,000t of pork – a five-fold fall year-on-year. Almost all those supplies were sent to Russia, according to official data from the Customs Service of Belarus.
The main reason for the drop in production, according to experts, is the decline in the profitability of pork production, due to increased feed prices and the low prices of pork on the domestic market at the beginning of the year. Also, logistics problems have contributed to the crisis, with exceptionally tough measures imposed by the government to stop the spread of ASF.
Belarus officials claimed the country was free from ASF. "Since the beginning of the year not a single outbreak of this disease has been detected within the country," claimed a spokesperson from the Department of Veterinary and Food Supervision of the Republic of Belarus.
However, Russian authorities and experts have repeatedly blamed Belarus authorities, saying they are simply hiding the facts when it comes to identifying ASF outbreaks. On 22 October, Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor reported the presence of the ASF genome in several batches of pork imported from Belarus, including in ready-to-cook products.
Deputy head of Rosselkhoznadzor Yevgeny Nepoklonov said Russia had introduced a regime of enhanced laboratory control over the imports of all pork products from Belarus. Also, it has banned the imports of all production from two companies that it claimed supplied ASF-contaminated meat, including Belarus’ largest meat exporter, the Minsk Meat-Processing Plant.
Yet representatives from Belarus’ veterinary services said it was "impossible" for ASF to have got into products from this meat processing plant.
"The Minsk Meat-Processing Plant is located in the safe area, and raw materials, which could contain the ASF gene, cannot be supplied to the enterprise. This is a very concerning news for us," said Leonid Zayats, Belarusian minister of agriculture and food.
Recovery and expansion plans
At the same time, despite the current problems in the country’s pig industry, Belarus’ leaders plan to not only recover the volume of pork production, but also boost it by launching large-scale exports to Russia. At the same time, according to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, there is the threat of a pork shortfall on the domestic market.
"Are our officials just hurrying to make a statement that the population [of pigs] will be restored, and we will increase pork production, or do these statements really have some basis? We cannot leave our people without pork," said Lukashenko.
Lukashenko recently approved a resolution aimed at securing a rapid rise in pork production in the country, due to the launch of 11 new industrial pig farms, which are currently under construction. The document provides that, during the first quarter of the next year – or as of 1 April 2015 – pork production should reach 124,300t, while during the whole year – or as of 1 January 2016 – it should rise to 485,200t, or threefold compared to current levels.
Exports to Russia may have reached 150,000t–200,000t by that time.