Bulgarian pig industry turmoil after ASF outbreak

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Pork prices are expected to rise in Bulgaria following a confirmed incident of African Swine Fever
Pork prices are expected to rise in Bulgaria following a confirmed incident of African Swine Fever

Related tags Pork African swine fever

The price per kilogram of pork in Bulgaria could jump by as much as 50% as the country is poised to cull 20% of pigs as the results of the epidemic of African Swine Fever (ASF), according to Bulgaria’s Association of Meat Processors.

Following the recent outbreak of ASF at a breeding farm with 17,000 heads of pigs, Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva issued an order to begin a voluntary culling of pigs at the farms described as backyards – a form of business when the pigs are being grown by private households. Taneva ruled out that the owners had to slaughter their pigs until 31 July in northern regions and until 2 August in southern regions.

The regional food safety agencies were instructed to proceed to compulsory culling of pigs at the backyards in the country once the time given for voluntary cullying is expired.  

The decision sent the domestic prices for pork skyrocketing and prompted pig farmers to begin large-scale protests all over the country. On 1 August, protesters against the culling plan blocked the road from Sliven to Yambol, a part of one of the main transport arteries in the country. In additional, the regional authorities in the Pazardzhik district said they would not allow the compulsory culling over the concerns about the compensation measures to the farmers.

The protesters forced Agricultural Ministry to push back the deadline for the end of voluntary culling in the country to 11 August, but this has not been enough to calm down the farmers.

The authorities insist that the backyard farms have poor biological protection and may contribute to the further spread of ASF in Bulgaria. There are believed to be at least 5,000 households breeding pigs in Bulgaria, and for most of them this is the only way of getting means to existence.

Tough consequences

European Commission would cover 75% of costs needed to tackle ASF in Bulgaria, according to The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis. The Bulgarian Agricultural Ministry estimated that the required sum is around BLL600m ($344m).

The preliminary investigation conducted by the Bulgarian veterinary services showed that it was most likely that the source of the recent outbreak were wild boars migrated from neighbor Romania. The new outbreak is the fourth confirmed case at an industrial farm in Bulgaria, but the one that caused the toughest consequences.

Bulgarian may lose up to 100,000 heads of pigs, or roughly 20% from its overall population due to the ASF, a spokesperson for the Agricultural Ministry estimated.

Local farmers say that the price for pork on the local market went up by 25% to 30% in only a few weeks due to the ASF. There are concerns over the upcoming shortage of pork, and so the prices are expected to rise by additional 15% during the autumn months.

Bulgaria’s Association of Meat Processors said in a statement that the price for pork in the country may jump by 50% in the end of the year, reaching one of the highest levels ever seen.

Global Meat News will be hosting a webinar on African Swine Fever and its impact on the international meat market on 29 October. To get involved, contact Aline Henderson on aline.henderson@wrbm.com​.

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