Commercial pig farmers in Ukraine face huge logistical challenges to sell their produce and generate much needed income as Russian bombs continue to kill animals and break food chains.
Pork is a vital source of protein to the Ukrainian people representing 34% of meat consumption there. Ukraine has around 5.5 million pigs in total, 65% of which are housed on commercial farms and the rest in household backyards.
The war started by Russia has created a number of logistical issues for the commercial farmers trying to sell their pigs, mostly in the regions occupied by the Russians. The backyard production units are doing much better as they are able to slaughter pigs on-site and sell or donate the pork-meat to the local villagers, schools and the Ukraine army.
According to the Association of Ukrainian Pig Producers (AUPP) in April 2022 5 of the 24 regions of Ukraine, namely Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, were occupied by the Russians. In the pre-war period, 23% of commercial pork in Ukraine was produced there. Ukraine’s largest pig producer, who accounts for approximately 11.5% of the country’s commercial pork production, and the next 2 largest pig farms, are all located in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions.
The war has created a number of issues for pig farmers mostly a lack of inputs, plus there has been destruction of many pig houses and transport to processors is difficult. Being close to zones of military activities, the Dnipropetrovsk region, ranked the 7th largest in Ukraine by the size of commercial pig inventory, is considered risky for maintaining operations due to high possibility of war escalation as well as the forced displacement of the labour force and consumers.
AUPP says pig producers in 19 of the 24 regions have resumed normal operations or are in the process of re-establishing seller supplier relations. With 5 regions of Ukraine recently being cleared of Russians, the pig producers of Chernihiv, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Sumy and Zhytomyr are returning to regular work. In fact, according to a recent AUPP survey to 70 pig producers all across Ukraine, 70% confirmed they had returned to normal operations.
Since March 2022, the increase in population in the western regions of Ukraine caused shortage of locally produced pork and forced slaughterhouses and meat processing plants to work at their full capacity, contrary to 60% to 70% work load in the pre-war period.
Oksana Yurchenko, the president of AUPP said while various regions are back in full production they still faced some challenges.
Hundreds of supermarkets are closed or destroyed now, so the supply chains are broken
Yurchenko said: “Pig farmers across the country are trying to get back into normal production but face some challenges in terms of selling their animals. However, depending on the region in Ukraine, the food chains are broken. The best situation is in the west, but in the central Ukraine region several large and important retailers warehouses were destroyed. For example, in the Kyiv region over 400,000 m2 of warehouses were destroyed after heavy shelling by the Russians. That is about 20% of the capacity of retailers warehouses in Ukraine. Additionally, hundreds of supermarkets are closed or destroyed now, so the supply chains are broken. This is what we see in most parts of Ukraine.”
AUPP is currently trying to assist pig farmers by sourcing and supplying inputs to help kickstart production cycles again. Yurchenko said: “At the moment we try to provide humanitarian aid to the farmers that are in the areas of active military operations, and in the regions that have been cleared of Russian troops. Under this aid we include inputs such as feed ingredients, like premixes; veterinary products, vaccines and antibiotics; and other vital inputs. I will add that one of the biggest challenges now is the redistribution of pigs all over Ukraine to fix the broken supply chains. This is one of our priorities as the association at the moment,” said Yurchenko.