The number of African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks in Latvia increases. Although pig farmers learned to co-exist with the disease, it has recently started hurting their businesses, according to Latvian news outlet Gorod.
Latvia experiences the second wave of ASF, Matrins Sergeants, head of the infectious disease department of the Food and Veterinary Service (PVD), reported. After a relatively calm couple of years, Latvia saw a spike in the number of outbreaks. These tripled in 2022 compared to 2021
“We discovered almost 1,300 infected wild boar last year,” Sergeants said. He added that the situation varies drastically among Latvian regions. “The entire Latgale province is affected, and there are separate cases in Cesis, Valmiera, and Kurzeme. ASF seems to gain a foothold in the Latvian forests.”
In September, PVD started paying a reward of € 30 for GPS coordinates directing them to the corpses of wild boar in a bid to tackle the spread of the virus. At that time, the veterinary services registered 20 wild boar that died from ASF per week.
ASF is not only killing wild boar. One outbreak last year was registered at a commercial farm with a pig population of around 1,400 animals, Sergeants disclosed. Several more outbreaks hit backyard farms.
PVD urges farmers to comply with biosecurity measures. These include not using water from open reservoirs and not feeding pigs with grass cut in the yard and non-thermally processed potatoes.
Pig farmers claimed that ASF is one of the reasons to blame for the dire state of the Latvian pig industry. Dzintra Leiniece, head of the Latvian Pig Producers Association, estimated that at the current level, farmgate pig prices do not cover the production costs, which soared last year. If Latvia were an ASF-free country, the prices would be better for pig farmers.
On the other hand, Leiniece praised the Latvian state support system, If farmers hit by ASF complied befoehand with biosecurity requirements, they are eligible for compensation from the state budget of € 128 per culled pig.
ASF and oversupply on the European pork market are the 2 main reasons why pork is so cheap in Latvia right now, said Inguna Gulbe, head of the Institute of Agrarian Resources and Economics.