African Swine Fever: FAO, EBRD and Japan act jointly in Ukraine to protect the rural economy, May 2016African Swine Fever: FAO, EBRD and Japan act jointly in Ukraine to protect the rural economy, May 2016

25 May, 2016

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a viral disease not harmful to human health, but with serious consequences for rural economies.

“In the past few years, Ukraine had to face losses over USD 30 million due to an uncontrolled spread of ASF in the country, and these could increase significantly in the future," warns Vasyl Hovhera of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

FAO, jointly with the EBRD, and with generous support from the Government of Japan, has been acting in concert with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine since 2014 to mitigate risks and help prevent further damages caused by the ASF epidemic.

On 28 April in Kiev, an event "African Swine Fever: Risk Awareness Raising and Risk Mitigation" organized by the Association of Pig Producers of Ukraine with the support of FAO and the EBRD, sought the way forward to meet the challenges the current epizootic situation is posing to Ukraine’s pig production.

“For us, bringing together the public sector, pork producers and the media in one place, is a success. The interest shown in our sessions illustrates how seriously tackling ASF in Ukraine is taken by stakeholders,” said Oksana Yurchenko, Vice President of the Pig Producers Association.

The event was attended by 150 participants, including pork producers, State representatives, local and national journalists, and experts. It was an important opportunity for participants to share experiences on biosecurity, awareness raising and on ways of developing common strategies for ASF prevention, some of which are highlighted in short animated video produced under the joint FAO/EBRD project.

Once ASF is introduced to a territory, it is extremely difficult to control and eradicate. The ASF virus remains infective for weeks or even months in uncooked or undercooked pork flesh and pork products, allowing it to persist even when refrigerated and frozen.

No vaccine or drugs are available to prevent infection. Some countries got ASF outbreaks under control through swift and thorough culling and disposal of all infected and potentially exposed animals, as well as through the implementation of strict movement bans on swine and pork products. These controls can last many years, especially since populations of wild pigs and boars may act as a reservoir for the virus.

Andriy Rozstalnyy, FAO Animal Production and Health Officer, emphasizes the need to handle ASF as a joint undertaking, as it is by far the greatest threat to the development of the Ukrainian pork sector. “Thanks to the work being carried out under this project, we managed to increase awareness among pork producers and official veterinarians about this disease. We hope that the training provided to veterinarians and farmers will have a ripple effect in spreading good practice.”

These trainings are associated with a larger objective of mitigating risk associated with ASF introduction and implementing association actions, which will eventually lead to the ASF eradication. In addition to improving knowledge and awareness of veterinaries and farmers – whether smallholders or small- and medium-sized pig farmers – work has also been carried out with public authorities to improve contingency planning at the national and oblast levels.

The present circumstances in Ukraine point to the importance - and urgency - of effective intervention, both in form of aid for the country’s agriculture and population and through prevention of the further spread of ASF to other European agricultural communities.

This event falls under the joint FAO/EBRD project “African Swine Fever: Risk Awareness Raising and Risk Mitigation in Ukraine”, which contributes to FAO's strategic objective to support inclusive and efficient food systems.

More about ASF

  • African swine fever was first identified in 1921 in Kenya. In the second half of the last century it began to spread out of Africa, with outbreaks in the Caribbean and Europe’s Iberian Peninsula.

  • A recent and alarming development has been the appearance of a newer and particularly virulent strain of AFS - “genotype II” - in Eastern Europe, beginning with a severe outbreak at the beginning of 2007 in Georgia, which then spread from the Caucasus to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, the Russian Federation and Belarus. It has now taken a step closer to the West, reaching Ukraine.

  • In August 2015, a devastating outbreak of a new strain of ASF was reported in Ukraine on a 60 000 head pig farm in Kiev oblast. For this single episode, total economic losses were estimated at more than USD 25 million including significant losses to the up and downstream industries.

  • Episodic losses like these though do not fully reflect broader economic and social damage. For Ukraine, the spread of the disease has the potential to negatively impact markets, reduce attractiveness of the pig production sector for investors, and increase cost of financing due to higher risks and impact trade.

  • At micro level, the spreading ASF epidemic places the fabric of Ukrainian rural society at risk. Pork production is an important source of protein for rural population – 36 percent of total meat in the Ukrainian diet – and can generate valuable cash income.

  • Ukrainian rural households earn about USD 69 million annually from pig production and roughly half of the country’s swine population is accounted for by backyard pig farms.

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EastAgri is supported by FAO, EBRD, and The World Bank