However, a final decision has not yet been made and supplies may only be restricted from one region.
Several of Russia’s agricultural holdings have sent an official letter to the country’s Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev, demanding that he close the border to Ukraine for pork imports.
“The internal political situation and the continuing conflict in the east of Ukraine mean we are not confident in the ability of government agencies to effectively deal with ASF and monitor the movement of goods,” said the letter, which has been signed by all the major Russian pork producers, including Miratorg, RusAgro, Cherkizovo, Agro-Belogorie and Agropromcomplektachia.
During the first half of 2015, Ukraine increased supplies of pork to Russia nearly sixfold to about 9,000 tonnes. Russia now accounts for 93% of all Ukraine pork exports.
However, on 28 July, an outbreak of ASF was detected at a pig farm run by Kalita, the ninth-largest pork producer in the country, according to data from the Union of Pig Farmers. To contain the spread of the disease, veterinary services had to introduce a quarantine and destroy a pig population numbering 60,000 head.
It makes the outbreak not only the largest one Ukraine has ever seen, but one of the largest in the whole post-Soviet Union space since 2007, when the disease first entered the southern regions of Russia, presumably from Georgia.
Preliminary estimates show that the outbreak will cost Kalita UAH170 million (over US$7m) in just direct losses. And industry commentators are doubtful whether the company can actually survive this incident.
“In such cases, quarantine is removed six months after the culling of the pigs, while breeding them in such a disadvantaged territory will not be possible until one year after the removal of the quarantine,” said Nikola Babenko, CEO of the Center for Increasing Efficiency in Livestock Farming. “This means stopping Kalita’s operations, which is almost a death sentence for the company.”
Also the outbreak of such a strong incidence of ASF could bring negative consequences for the whole country’s agricultural industry. On 2 August, Agriculture Ministry deputy head Yaroslav Krasnopolsky said this case could result in putting a hold on Ukraine’s grain exports, which generate an income of US$5bn for the country annually.
Ukraine’s government has already allocated UAH45m (US$2.04m) to combat ASF in the Kiev Oblast. Representatives from the country’s veterinary service Gosvetphitosluzba said the authorities may cancel the moratorium on pig farm and meat processing plant inspections and initiate a large-scale check of these businesses.
In addition according to Kalita’s chairman of the board Yuri Zhiharev, the company was insured against all risks, except one - ASF. According to him, since 2014 all insurance companies, both domestic and foreign, have refused to deal with this risk, and in order for the pig industry to operate normally, the government will have to deal with the problem as well.