The claimed problematic situation Estonia finds itself in was made by market participants at a press conference of food industry companies in Vilnius on 13 October.
According to Olle Horm, CEO of one of the largest Estonian food manufacturers Atria Eesti, since 2014, the pig population in Estonia has reduced from 360,000 head to 280,000 head and recent statistics have suggested this figure will drop even further by the end of the year.
“This trend is scaring me a little. We have seen a drop in exports of pork, due to ASF, and overproduction in the European Union (EU). When there are no raw materials, you have nothing to export. Now, [Estonia] has started to import pigs, which never happened before and imports have exceeded exports,” Horm said.
Overproduction in decline
More positively, according to market participants, the overproduction problem in EU is in decline and some growth in pork exports to Asia is encouraging farmers that the industry is in gradual recovery.
According to estimates from Atria Eesti, the current self-sufficiency rate of Estonia in pork production has reduced to 80%, while this year overall consumption of meat and meat products, will either remain at the same level as 2015 or reduce by 1-2%.
This year pork prices in Estonia are likely to recover, causing some growth for the industry, Horm suggested.
“Exports, in general, will stay at the same level [as in 2015]. The main problem for Estonian pig producers is that everybody produces everything. There are no large shipments of products and the high efficiency associated with that. Also, the Estonian food industry has no strong and famous brands abroad,” he added.
ASF hit majority of Estonia
Meanwhile, even with some improvement in market conditions in the country, the ASF situation remains tough. According to reports from the Estonian Food and Veterinary Service, on 12 October the disease was discovered in Lääne County.
As a result, ASF has now hit 14 out of 15 Estonian counties, with the only exception being Hiiumaa County, mostly because it is an island and is separated from the rest of the country by the Vainameri Sea. The spread of ASF across the country is primarily associated with wild boars, Estonian veterinary officials believe.
“Our findings suggest large-scale spread of the disease among wild boars, so all breeders, as well as people who visit forests, must be cautious and careful in order to avoid the spread of the virus in pig farms,” suggested Olev Kalda, acting director general of the Veterinary and Food Agency.
However, according to Kalda, there are still some pork-producing regions in south Estonia which have managed to avoid ASF. In response to this, at the beginning of October, the European Commission changed the quarantine zoning rules, excluding these areas from third quarantine zones, from which the export of pork products is not allowed.