Russia: swine fever losses top one billion rubles

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Russia is under threat from ASF
Russia is under threat from ASF

Related tags Wild boar Pig Livestock Pork

Russia has seen an unprecedented rise in the loss of pigs to African Swine Fever (ASF) in 2016, jumping 12.6 times compared to 2015 to RUB1.2 billion (US$18m), according to estimates from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture. 

Meanwhile, overall losses from the epidemic in 2008-2016 amounted to RUB40bn (US$1.1bn, at average exchange rate of the ruble against the dollar), according to a statement from the Russian Union of Pig Producers (RUPP).

As of 28 November, in Russia 190,984 pigs had been culled in farms affected by the outbreaks, and another 57,938 pigs in quarantine zones within 5km from the outbreaks, the Ministry said, claiming that the main blame for the rapid spread of ASF lay with private subsidiary farms.

“This year in Russia there was a significant increase in the number of private farms, where uncontrolled infection with ASF occurred, while owners at these farms are neglecting the rules on burning animal carcases, which has led to a further spread of the disease,”​ added the Ministry.

Similar opinions were expressed by Yuri Kovalev, general director of RUPP. Speaking at the Agricultural Holdings Russia Conference in Moscow, he said that 2016 was the hardest year for the country’s pig industry in terms of monetary losses from ASF. Since the beginning of the epidemic, according to Kovalev, Russia has culled 2m head of pigs.

“The reason for the spread of the disease is uncontrolled pig-keeping in private subsidiary farms and the absence of a system for utilisation the carcases of pigs,”​ he added.

To deal with this problem, Kovalev suggested changing the principles of veterinary service operation, an improvement in veterinary security on industrial farms, a reduction in the number of wild boars, and the introduction of a basic order in the pig industry, he said, not disclosing any detail on these proposals.

Within the same conference, Maxim Basov, CEO of agricultural holding RusAgro, a major pork producer, described the current situation with ASF in the country as “catastrophic”​, saying the only way to reduce risks from the ASF epidemic was to completely prohibit any pig-keeping on private farms.

“The biggest risk for companies ​[in terms of ASF] is the keeping of pigs in private subsidiary farms. Keeping pigs at these farms, in the situation our country finds itself now, will make any further investment impossible. The only way to achieve a serious, comprehensive reduction of the risk, I believe, is to ban the keeping of pigs in private farms. I do not see another way,”​ Basov said.

In addition, Basov said he believed the threat of ASF spread from wild boars was broadly overestimated. He added that the uncontrolled shooting of boars, proposed by some market participants and veterinary officials, could lead to negative environmental consequences, since boars form an important part of the food chain for some animals. So, he expressed serious doubts that a reduction in the population of wild boars was really possible in central regions of Russia.

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