ASF crisis in Romania to keep the pig farming under pressure


Last year, the country's swine inventory declined by 2.6%, according to USDA data.

Posted on Apr 13 ,06:45

ASF crisis in Romania to keep the pig farming under pressure

The ongoing African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in Romania is to keep the swine sector under pressure, at least for 2021, says the latest outlook from USDA. Even if the number of active ASF outbreaks in Romania continues to trend downward, 24% down compared with Q1 2020, the impact on commercial farms is larger. According to the data published by the National Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA), as of mid-March 2021, 401 ASF outbreaks were active in Romania, including 14 on commercial farms. Therefore, the actual impacts on pork meat production, carcass disposal, and disinfection expenses are likely higher. Most recently, in April 2021, a leading hog producer was affected when ASF was detected on a 5,700 head operation located in the western region of Romania.
The vast majority of ASF outbreaks occurred among small and backyard farms. However, when commercial farms are located within the protection (3 km radius) or surveillance (10 km radius) zones near ASF-positive backyard farms, those commercial farms are subjected to animal movement restrictions to other farms or to slaughter plants. These movement restrictions may go beyond the prescribed 40-day time frame if successive outbreaks are confirmed in the same areas. This creates logistical problems for the affected commercial farmers, as they are forced to increase feed and maintenance costs, as well as subject animals to overcrowding in crowded barns.
"To date, 4,226 total ASF outbreaks have been confirmed in Romania, 90 of which have occurred on commercial farms. The total number of ASF-positive wild boars in Romania reached 5,345 as of March 2021. Under the ASF eradication program, 766,000 animals have been culled since July 2017. To date, the Romanian government has disbursed upwards of $145 million (€121.84 million) from the national budget to compensate over 15,000 pig owners for their losses," mentions the USDA report.
As a result, Romania’s hog inventory continues to trend downward, with a 2.6% year-on-year decline in 2020 from 2019. The number of breeding sows in 2020 also fell by 4% from 309,000 head in 2019 to 297,000 head in 2020. As pig production capacity has been under pressure, fattening farms sought piglets from outside of Romania, which drove live piglet imports in 2020 to increase by 17.6% over the previous year. However, the decline in the Romanian swine inventory is constant for the past 10 years, with almost 1.7 million head lost since 2011.
Trade dynamics for Romanian pork has also changed since ASF was first detected in 2017. Following restrictions imposed by Romania’s trading partners, pork exports to other EU Member States and non-EU countries plummeted. In 2020, exports reached just one-tenth - 3,467 tonnes - of the 2017 peak figure. The losses of export markets resulted in higher domestic stocks. Higher stocks, along with a drop in demand for fresh pork meat due to the COVD-19 pandemic in 2020, reduced pork imports by 2.5% to 272,630 tonnes, according to the data published by Trade Data Monitor.
In March 2021, ANSVSA posted for public consultation a more comprehensive emergency ordinance, in which responsibilities to implement enforce the provisions lie with many regulatory and implementing entities. According to the updated draft, backyard holders can not hold more than six pigs, can not breed their animals and must consume their home-raised pork at home and not sell any meat. The draft ordinance further provides specific animal health and biosecurity rules for both commercial and non-commercial types of holding. This proposed legislation also generated fierce reactions claiming the measure penalize smallholders and will reduce rural incomes. In contrast, representatives of the swine commercial sector view this initiative as the only way to control and eradicate ASF.

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