Estonia’s pig industry continues to struggle

14-03-2016 | | |
[Photo: Vincent ter Beek]
[Photo: Vincent ter Beek]

The crisis in Estonia’s pig industry hasn’t seen the end yet as problems continue to exist and state support remains low. By the end of 2015 the pig population dropped by 12% to 335,000 head. How can the sector survive?

Last year, at various moments, Estonia’s pig industry claimed the central government wasn’t doing enough to support its industry. Due to African Swine Fever (ASF), the Russian pig embargo and other adverse conditions, many producers have gone into bankruptcy.

Also interesting: First domestic pigs in Estonia affected by ASF

2 small farms in Estonia have been affected by African Swine Fever; about 550 pigs will have to be culled as a result, according the latest data by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

According to Urmas Kruuse, Estonia’s minister of agriculture, the country’s industry simply needs to learn how to deal with new conditions. He recently disclosed that pork producers in the country this year may expect to receive state support in the total amount of €100,000-150,000 out of overall €4.6 million allocated for support of Estonian agricultural sector.

Not enough to keep pig industry going

Siret Kolka, head of the Estonian Parliament Commission on Rural Life, said that this may not be enough to keep the country’s pig industry going. He said, “African Swine Fever continues to spread across Estonia. As of today more than 400 pig farmers in the country have been forced to stop operation. Overall losses from ASF have already reached €36 million, according to the Institute of Economic Research. Own production of pork in Estonia as a result this year may drop by 60%.”

The country’s statistics department said that late 2015 the pig population in Estonia decreased 12% to 335,000 head. During 2015, a large number of pig farms went bankrupt and had to send all livestock to slaughter. As a result, production indicators at the end of last year showed even some increase.

More support and long-term strategy needed

Kolka said, “In fact, to deal with the current pig crisis, we need much more support and long-term strategy, not comparable with the current one. But as we can see this understanding, so far, has not occurred to the government. It is unclear whether this is a misunderstanding or that the government have simply decided to eliminate this agricultural sector.”

Kolka received business-wide support, e.g. from Teet Soorma, director for HKScan Estonia. He said that without further state support, Estonia’s pig industry is doomed to disappear.

Pig industry losing €2 million/month

Urmas Laht, head of the Union of Pig Farmers of Estonia, the country’s pig farmers are losing €2 million every month as a result of ASF and low purchasing prices. He believes last year was the toughest, and the industry would require a continuation of state support and equal conditions of operation for all market participants.

Last year Estonia spent about €1.5 million to support pig farmers, and €0.5 million for veterinary measures to combat ASF. Spokespersons of the Union of Pig Farmers believe that the actions of veterinarians mostly hurt the business, as the establishment of quarantine zones is often felt to be too large. All farms inside such zones, even when having decent levels of veterinary security, lose chances to sell their products outside these zones.

Vladislav Vorotnikov Eastern Europe correspondent