Chinese ASF-infected pork keeps hitting Russia

27-01-2020 | | |
Pork for sale in Russia. Photo: Dreamstime
Pork for sale in Russia. Photo: Dreamstime

Yet another batch of ASF-infected sausages, coming from China, have reached Russia. That was revealed by Russia’s veterinary watchdog Rosselhoznadzor.

The batch containing the African Swine Fever (ASF) genome was discovered at a customs check point in the Trans-Baikal region, Rosselhoznadzor’s regional department said in a statement on its website late last year.

Illegal trade contributes to ASF spread

This is not the 1st time that infected products are discovered on the Russian-Chinese border. In earlier statements, Rosselhoznadzor has repeatedly been warning that illegal trade in the region and smuggling from China was one of the main factors contributing to the ASF spread in Russia’s Far East.

In January 2020, ASF was confirmed in a wild boar shot in the Khabarovsky region, at 12km from the border with China. This is the 4th region in the Russian Far East that is no longer considered being free from ASF. Since the outbreaks in China started, ASF outbreaks were also reported from Amur region, Jewish Autonomous region and the Primorskiy region. Most outbreaks were registered relatively close to the Chinese border. The furthest away from China was the finding of a wild boar in Primorskiy region at roughly 215km from the border with China in November 2019.

Chinese mafia may be involved

Russian state-owned news outlet Ria Novosti reported that Chinese mafia might be involved in the infected pigs transport in China, including in some regions bordering with Russia. The outlet said that local law enforcement agencies had been seizing some batches of infected live pigs and pork products, and that there were several attempts to import infected pork to Russia over the previous 6 months.

That is not the only way the Chinese mafia is getting involved in the ASF epidemic. Some criminals are deliberately feeding pigs with some infected feedstuffs in order to provoke an outbreak, purchase pigs at minimal prices, illegally transport them somewhere and sell with good margins. The criminals could earn up to $500 per head from such activity, Ria Novosti estimated.

No pig production growth in Russia’s Far East

Russia’s Far East accounts for only 2% of the Russian pig population. This part of the country is one of the few not being self-sufficient in pork, although some investors harbour plans to ramp up pork production in the coming years.

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Speaking at a press conference in November 2019, Maxim Basov, general director of the Russian major pork producer RusAgro said his company was mulling plans to build a giant pork cluster in the Russian Far East with the designed production capacity of 1 million tonnes of pork/year in a joint venture with Chinese investors.

Such a project would be possible only if Chinese authorities would open their market for the Russian pork products, Basov explained. Rusagro would not allocate any huge investments to expand its production performance without Chinese partners, Basov said.

The Russian Agricultural Ministry officials believe that with the further distribution of ASF in the Russian Far East, the chances that China would allow pork imports from that part of the country remain daunting.

Illegal Chinese pork reaching Italy

Russia is not the only country where illegal Chinese pork was recently discovered. The Italian authorities also seized and destroyed 9.5 tonnes of Chinese pork. The illegal pork was hidden under a shipment of vegetables from China. The health officials considered the produce so dangerous that they decided to immediately incinerate it, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

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Vladislav Vorotnikov Eastern Europe correspondent