Nov 3, 2021
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Russia was overcome not only by the coronavirus, but also by the African plague. The consequences are sad

Russia was overcome not only by the coronavirus, but also by the African plague.  The consequences are sad

Photo: Evgeny Epanchintsev / TASS

On the agenda of Russian epidemiologists is not only covid, but also another infectious attack. This is African swine fever, which mows down pigs in dozens of regions of Russia. Huge pig-breeding enterprises are being ruined.

The infection returned to Russia just when pig breeding is on an unprecedented rise, and new markets are about to open up for Russian livestock breeders. What a coincidence! However, few people believe that this is a common coincidence.

An attack that even Soviet veterinarians did not know about

In Soviet times, most veterinarians knew about African swine fever only by hearsay. There were only sporadic outbreaks in the South. The attack hit Russia again in 2008, when in a matter of months the infection spread to almost the entire European part of the country.

The most terrible epizootic raged until 2012, as a result of which the Russian pig-breeding industry was almost destroyed. According to official figures, in order to stop the spread of the infection, more than 600 thousand pigs had to be killed.

The economic losses to agriculture were comparable to those of a real war. However, this was a war – only with an invisible enemy. After all, it remains a mystery how ASF managed to penetrate into Russia and spread so rapidly throughout almost all of its territory, bypassing the quarantine cordons. Was it just corruption and helplessness of the veterinary services?

However, there would be no happiness, but misfortune helped. After the end of the epizootic, the sharp rise in pork prices attracted a large number of companies that began to actively invest in pig breeding. Not only the enterprises affected by the epizootic began to revive, but also new ones were built. All this led to the vigorous development of pig breeding in Russia.

The consumption of pork has increased in the country, while prices for it, on the contrary, have decreased. According to Rosselkhozbank estimates, pork consumption in Russia reached 27 kg per capita – the highest level since the collapse of the USSR. At the same time, this year the average price for boneless pork increased by 4%, while the average price for poultry meat jumped by 17.3% over the same period.

Russia would have conquered the export market … If not for the epizootic

By the beginning of 2021, the pig-breeding industry in Russia approached in a much better condition than before the epizootic. The total demand for pork in the Russian market last year increased by 4% compared to 2019 and amounted to 4.08 million tons, according to the calculations of the Russian Agricultural Bank.

Meat consumption in Russia is 77 kg per capita, which is much higher than the global average of 40 kg per capita and is quite close to the European level, ranging from 75-85 kg, depending on the country. Moreover, pork now accounts for 36% of meat consumption in Russia, second only to poultry with 44%.

At the same time, the domestic market is close to absolute saturation: Russian demand ceases to stimulate the growth of the industry, as it was 5-10 years ago, says the head of the Center for Industry Expertise of the Russian Agricultural Bank Andrey Dalnov

Another think tank, Gazprombank, estimated that Russia produced almost 10% more pork last year than a year earlier. Exports amounted to 200 thousand tons. This is double what it was in 2019.

Exports to Hong Kong almost doubled over the past year, and to Vietnam – five times! All in all, Russia is already shipping its pork to 20 countries, and, according to Gazprombank analysts, growth will continue for several more years.

In general, everything is fine … If not for the African plague. Last fall and winter alone, 560,000 goals were scored, according to industry publication PigProgress. The most affected are Tver, Kursk, Voronezh, Samara and Tambov regions.

Invisible foreign enemy – harmless to humans, fatal to the agro-industrial complex

So what do we have in the bottom line? The plans of Russian manufacturers to expand into the markets of the Asia-Pacific region were suddenly interrupted by a new epizootic. It began in October 2020 with a pig farm in the Kalachevsky district of the Voronezh region, then the infection spread almost throughout Central Russia. Outbreaks were also recorded in the South of Russia.

In addition, the virus has already paved its way to grocery shelves. As a rule, meat products with the ASF genome are detected completely by accident. The food, of course, has to be burned immediately.

This year, outbreaks of African plague were recorded both at individual pig farms and at large enterprises. In particular, in September, and then in October – in the Belgorod region at the pig-breeding complexes of the Miratorg company.

After that, the head of the National Meat Association Sergey Yushin stated that the epizoties forced pig breeders to adjust their ambitious plans. Thus, the rate of production growth in 2021 had to be reduced from 6-7% to 3-4%. That is, almost doubled. There are probably a lot of people who want to deal such a crushing blow to the gigantic industry.

It is important to remember that the African plague virus is harmless to humans – viral particles are destroyed in the stomach under the influence of gastric juice. But the virus is fatal to the agricultural economy – it spreads among pigs at lightning speed. And those animals that do not die should be slaughtered immediately. It only remains to calculate what damage has already been done to Russian pig breeding (and will continue to do) by an invisible foreign enemy.

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