African Swine Fever puts Russian region at risk

By Vladislav Vorishnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Fears over African Swine Fever may put Miratorg deal at risk
Fears over African Swine Fever may put Miratorg deal at risk

Related tags African swine fever Wild boar Pig Livestock Pork

Russian agricultural holding Miratorg may abandon its major pig project in Kursk Oblast. 

The project involves a total investment of RUB100 billion (US$2bn) to construct 60 pig farms with an overall capacity of 364,000 tonnes (t) of pork.

Miratorg representatives have given the “drastically increased risk of spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the region”​ as a reason for quitting the project. As shown by official data in July from Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor, the virus has been detected in four areas in the region.

Miratorg blames the situation on Russian authorities. The company’s president Viktor Linnik recently criticised Rosselkhoznadzor, saying: “The only thing that regional veterinary authorities can do professionally is collect money for assistance [in fighting the disease], while real biological safety is not guaranteed.”

The project was announced last autumn and was designed to produce 3.7 million head of pigs or 346,000t of pork per year with the construction of 60 pig farms, each holding 2,700 sows, as well as processing capacities and several feed mills, with an overall capacity of 1.5 million t. All in all, this grouping would have become the largest project in the Russian meat industry since its independence.

The regional administration, which has been actively supporting the project, refused to comment on the situation, while representatives of Miratorg called for a set of priority measures to be taken to improve the epizootic situation in the region.

“These [measures] involve depopulation of the wild boars, a strengthening of control over compliance with biological safety at industrial pig production facilities, as well as in private farms,”​ said the company’s press service. Another important measure would be certification of slaughterhouses, as ASF has been transferred via finished products, as well as live animals.

The final decision on the project has not been taken and, according to the management at Miratorg, it will largely depend on how ASF develops in the region.

Russian market experts supported Miratorg’s criticism of the veterinary authorities, saying they cannot deal effectively deal with ASF in most of the country’s regions.

According to Sergei Yushin, head of the executive committee at the National Meat Association, the reform of veterinary services in 2004 – when single veterinary agencies were divided into parts – has destroyed an effective system of veterinary control in the country. “As a result we currently face the worst epizootic situation seen in the last 40 years,”​ he said.

Professor Denis Kolbasov, director of the National Research Institute for Veterinary Virology and Microbiology, also said there was no cooperation at present between major producers and veterinary authorities in terms of battling ASF. “There is no well-established dialogue between government and business on epizootic safety and, without it, any effective control on the spread of ASF is impossible,”​ he said. “In Russia, major companies cannot agree certain measures with smaller market players, while all of them also have to discuss the situation with Rosselkhoznadzor, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources and other federal services. As the result, the situation in the industry has not changed since 2007.”

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