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ASF: An ever-growing problem for Russia and Ukraine

Increasingly, the notion grows in both Russia and Ukraine, that African Swine Fever (ASF) needs to stay within the territories and that more thorough control policies are needed.

The Russian agricultural ministry stated on its website that African Swine Fever (ASF) has led to ministry spending of about 14.2 billion roubles (US$ 220 million) in the last few years. This figure was only for anti-ASF monitoring, culling pigs infected with the disease and underpayment of taxes by the farms destroyed as a result of the outbreaks.

Direct losses incurred by the pig industry due to ASF must have been many times higher, the ministry informed earlier.

Independent estimate of losses

It is the 1st time the ministry has independently estimate its losses related to the continuing spread of ASF in Russia. It was needed to justify the adoption of a new bill that the ministry is currently lobbying in the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament. In the bill, the ministry proposed to grant additional powers to the veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor in order to control the operation of the veterinary services in Russia’s regions.

African Swine Fever is often retained in Russia’s and Ukraine’s wild boar population. Photo: Petr Satran, Czech State Veterinary Administration
African Swine Fever is often retained in Russia’s and Ukraine’s wild boar population. Photo: Petr Satran, Czech State Veterinary Administration

In 2017, the country counted 165 ASF outbreaks, the ministry said. The disease stepped beyond the Ural Mountains and entered several regions of Siberia. In some particular regions, the rapid spread of the disease was associated with the poor conditions and the lack of experience of the regional veterinary services, according to the ministry.

Supervising the regional veterinary services

Rosselkhoznadzor has been seeking to supervise the regional veterinary services, which have been technically independent from federal legislation in the past few years. The Russian Union of Pork Producers has also frequently called for “the unification of the veterinary system in the country under one single management.”

That requested step, however, has not been taken yet, as reportedly not everyone in the government supported it.

New outbreak in Belgorod region

It is quite possible that the officials changed their minds due to a new ASF outbreak late February in the Belgorod region, a region in the south of Russia adjacent to the Ukrainian border. The region has the highest pig density in the country and the regional authorities are concerned that the virus could bring enormous losses to the local pig industry.

In addition, in 2017 ASF hit pig farms of the largest agricultural holdings, including Miratorg and RusAgro. The latest outbreak also posed a threat for a pig farm of Miratorg, the veterinary watchdog stated in a release posted on its website.

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Ukraine wages war against wild boar

Ukraine has registered 38 ASF outbreaks in the 1st 2 months of 2018, according to Artur Loza, the chairman of the state veterinary body Gosvetphitosluzba.

This was slightly less than during the same period of the previous year, but still very high, and this situation forces the authorities to introduce new ways aimed to tackle the further spread of disease.

Paying hunters for dead wild boar

In particular, as from 2018 Gosvetphitosluzba, aims to start paying hunters for dead wild boar, Mr Loza said. This measure was in line with the European practice of combat with ASF and proved its value since prior to getting to the farm the virus was circulating in the wild nature, he added.

However, the real picture of ASF spread in Ukraine remains unknown, as Gosvetphitosluzba is rather limited in resources to timely identify outbreaks, according to a statement posted by the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). If the disease is not tackled in a proper way, it will lead to growing risks both for farmers and pork processors, FAO said.

African Swine Fever and Belarus

The Belarus situation is unknown as official reports about African Swine Fever occurrence do not exist. With Poland building a big fence and all surrounding countries reporting about ongoing outbreaks, it is safe to assume that as we speak, the virus is active inside Belarus.

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