ASF Poland: alarm bells about relaxing veterinary rules

24-03-2023 | |
ASF Poland
Photo: Ronald Hissink

A group of Polish business unions sent an open letter to the Polish Agricultural Minister Henryk Kowalczyk urging to reject a controversial draft decree. Under this decree, veterinary rules with regard to ASF in Poland are planned to be eased for backyard farms keeping up to 10 pigs.

Backyard farms will get a waiver to lay disinfectant mats at the entrance and exits to pig houses. It also no longer obligatory to draw up an inventory of their pigs and keep a record of transport and personnel entering the farm. Backyard farmers have long backed these changes. They could help several thousands of herds across the country, the Ministry estimated.

Safety concerns

However, the authors of the letter, signed by the Polish association of pig producers Polpig, the Polish association of pig breeders Polsus, and the Polish meat association, warn that the new reform could destroy the entire progress the country made during the last nine years in battling the African Swine Fever (ASF).

“Not complying with the basic biosecurity rules in the backyard farm segment in the proposed scale and territorial scope is unjustified. Biosecurity measures at pig farms are important regardless of the size of the herd,” the authors said.

All farms are in the same boat

“In our opinion, it is far too early to abolish significant elements of biosecurity at individual farms,” a spokesperson for one of the industry associations told to local news outlet Agripolska. He explaining that an ASF outbreak at a backyard farm would entail big problems for the all farmers located in the vicinity.

Moreover, the existing regulations do not offer compensation to farmers who strictly comply with the veterinary rules and have to allocate massive investments to maintaining biosecurity. Industrial farmers believe this is unfair.

“Abandoning full veterinary control of small herds will make epizootic investigations more difficult and will significantly complicate the efforts aimed at preventing new ASF outbreaks,” the authors said.

The industry is in a dire state

The Polish Agricultural Ministry tries to combat the continuing decline in the pig population. Estimates are that in early 2023 the number of pigs in Poland dropped to 9.6 million heads, the lowest number since the 1950s.

Janusz Piechociński, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy said that small and medium-sized slaughterhouses across the country massively suspended operations due to problems in the pig industry. He estimated that the situation keeps deteriorating as the daily slaughter rate in Poland now stands at 40,000 heads, compared to 75,000 heads last year.

Vladislav Vorotnikov Eastern Europe correspondent