New ASF outbreaks in Ukraine may pose a threat to Balkans

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Ukrainian farmers have smuggled pigs to other regions to stop them being destroyed
Ukrainian farmers have smuggled pigs to other regions to stop them being destroyed

Related tags Ukraine Pig Wild boar Livestock Pork

A new outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) has been discovered in a farm in the Cherkasy Oblast in central Ukraine, following a large-scale inspection by the country’s veterinary body Gosvetphitosluzba. This is the latest in a series of outbreaks in new areas of the country over the past two months. 

On 9 November Belarus officially banned imports of pork from the Cherkasy Oblast, and Russia’s veterinary authorities once again criticised the level of veterinary controls in Ukraine and Eastern countries of the European Union.

According to official data, in the period from 30 July 2012 to 5 November 2015, 41 outbreaks of ASF, including 31 among domestic pigs, have been identified in Ukraine, with most of them taking place recently. Previously most of the outbreaks were detected in northern areas of the country, but in October-November 2015 the disease spread to southern regions.

The fact that these outbreaks have occurred in the domestic pig population is evidence of a lack of sufficient control over the movement of potentially dangerous products from areas where ASF has been detected. This poses a threat that the infection will spread across Ukraine to the west, and then to the Balkans, where the population of wild boar is quite plentiful​,” stated Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor.

The laws governing pig farming in these countries and the large number of small farms make the situation there quite dangerous in terms of the spread of the virus. [Ukraine’s veterinary authorities] need to create an extensive (100-150 km) buffer zone around the affected areas and conduct other qualitative preventative measures​,” it added.

Pig smuggling​ 

Local veterinary services in Ukraine admitted there was a problem in the region. According to officials in the village of Vradievka, located in the Mykolaiv Oblast in southern Ukraine, where ASF was discovered at the end of October, many local farmers have been smuggling their pigs to other regions of the country, in order to avoid them being destroyed by veterinary authorities, in accordance with their instructions.

The disease has already caused price fluctuations in Ukraine’s domestic pork market. According to a report from the Ukraine Agribusiness Club (UCAB), at the end of October pork prices jumped by 5-7%. “Some market operators plan to continue to raise prices, but how long this trend will continue for is difficult to predict, as ASF has expanded its geography and was recorded in the Odessa and Mykolaiv Oblasts,” said a spokesperson from UCAB.

Culling of wild boars will be among the measures Ukraine authorities will implement to fight ASF. Ivan Sheremeta, a spokesperson for the State Forest Resources Agency of Ukraine, said the hunters planned to conduct the cull in 12 border regions of the country. However, industry observers have said this measure has come too late, and will not prevent ASF from spreading in Ukraine, but will be aimed at keeping it out of neighbouring countries. 

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