The disease is not only forcing farmers to increase spend on biosecurity measures, but is also cutting manufacturers’ export potential, which has already resulted in an oversupply crisis and pushed down prices, according to market participants.
“Since ASF was discovered in Latvia, the purchase price of pork has fallen 15%. As a result, Latvian pig producers have lost €8.1 million, so the European Union (EU) needs to support the fight against the disease,” said Latvian Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs.
“Right now, 40% of farms are affected by internal veterinary restrictions. They cannot sell pork outside their area, so they have to decrease production volumes, or even suspend production completely,” he added.
The same situation is occurring in Estonia, where the spread of ASF and internal veterinary measures could halve the number of pigs by spring next year. If so, pork product volumes would also decrease twofold, according to a report by Roomet Sormus, head of the Agricultural Chamber of Commerce in Estonia.
“To date, members of the Association of Pig Breeders have already lost one-third of their pig population. Many companies have claimed they will not be able to return to pig breeding in future. It will be good if, by spring next year, we manage to keep half of the pigs at the farms,” he stated.
Official data indicates that, as of August this year, activity has stopped at 285 pig-breeding farms in Estonia, including 17 farms where ASF was discovered. Most of the farms were small as, out of this number, only 33 farms had a population of more than 10 pigs.
Supporting measures required
Meanwhile, a large number of producers are pinning their hopes on funding support, both from the European Commission (EC) and the countries’ governments.
“We have asked the EC to allocate €23.5m to create a guarantee fund for pig producers, so that if ASF spreads further, they can reorientate their business [to other forms of livestock] and retain their resources,” said Dūklavs.
He also pointed out that ASF was not dangerous for any agricultural animals other than pigs, so reorienting the business could save farms from bankruptcy. However, reorientation is a hard process, which farmers cannot go through without support.
Some support has also been promised for pig farms in Estonia. “Pig producers can apply for assistance under the Rural Development Plan. The subsidies are designed to improve their biosecurity methods or allow them to exit the sector. In August this assistance had been requested by a total of 56 farms,” said Maarja Kristian, head of the veterinary and food department at Estonia’s Agriculture Ministry.
Estonia’s government has recently supported a controversial measure, allowing pork from quarantine areas to be purchased and then processed further as canned meat. It is well-known that ASF is not dangerous to humans. However, all countries affected by the disease have so far refrained from using any potentially dangerous pork. Estonia’s government believes this measure is necessary, however, as the domestic pig industry is suffering losses of €2m every month, due to the ongoing spread of the disease.