African swine fever being tackled in Ukraine, February 2018 African swine fever being tackled in Ukraine, February 2018

01 February, 2018

With the help of new equipment and training, the Ukrainian pork sector is taking further steps to enhance its monitoring and containment of African swine fever (ASF). 

In recent years, ASF – a deadly swine disease not transmittable to humans – has put the Ukrainian pork sector at risk, and with it the food security and livelihoods of many within the country. Since 2012, there have been 323 registered outbreaks of the disease.

The spread of ASF in Ukraine has already led to serious socio-economic consequences; while the country has taken steps to eradicate the disease, domestic meat markets are being negatively affected.

The extent of the spread of ASF in Ukraine remains uncertain due to the limited capacities of the official Ukrainian veterinary services to quickly identify and confirm the disease. According to expert forecasts, the negative impact of its spread in Ukraine is likely to deepen if the disease is not properly and quickly controlled, which would further increase risks for pork farmers and processors.

The power of detection

The project African swine fever: risk awareness raising and risk mitigation in Ukraine has been implemented in Ukraine since 2015 by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the State Service for Food Security and Consumer Protection and the Ukrainian Association of Pig Breeders.

Today, as part of the second phase of the project, the EBRD and FAO transferred state-of-the-art equipment to Ukrainian laboratories, enhancing the capability of the Ukrainian veterinary service to conduct timely and accurate ASF testing. The transfer took place during a meeting at the State Research Institute for Laboratory Diagnostics, Veterinary and Sanitary Expertise.

“Fighting African swine fever starts with appropriate disease surveillance at the public level and investments in better biosecurity at the private company level,” says Lesya Kuzmenko, Associate Director, Senior Banker at the EBRD. “The joint FAO-EBRD project has taken practical steps to deliver state-of-the-art equipment and training to allow the Ukrainian government to enhance its ASF surveillance capacity. EBRD is ready to further support pig-sector development and invest in companies with proper biosecurity and quality standards," she added.

The new equipment, which will be used to carry out real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing – the only reliable method to diagnose ASF, will allow the state laboratories in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, and Mykolaiv to contribute to the successful surveillance and early detection of ASF. It will also help to mitigate the risk of ASF by improving local laboratory capacity and knowledge on ASF diagnostics, monitoring and control.

Education as a weapon in fighting ASF

Although there are 11 universities that train veterinary medicine doctors in Ukraine, there has been a lack of equipment and training to tackle ASF, hindering timely disease identification and monitoring.

The project though, builds links between the participating state laboratories and agricultural universities in Odessa, Sumy and Zhytomyr in sharing knowledge on diagnostics methods, and the PCR equipment transferred today will soon be available to staff and students of veterinary faculties of these universities.

"Today, African Swine Fever represents the most critical threat to the development of the Ukrainian pork sector,” said Dmitry Prikhodko, FAO Investment Centre economist who is heading the project. “But when the private sector and the state partner with science and education, we have a great chance to fight this and other animal diseases, reducing the risk for farmers, processors and sector investors."

A complex vision

At the beginning of 2018, the pig population in Ukraine was estimated at almost 6.1 million. A high proportion are held by households and smallholder farms, which are more likely to experience challenges in adopting high biosecurity measures. As such, the Ukrainian pork industry remains vulnerable to epizootic outbreaks.

Ukrainians are heavily reliant on pork as a source of animal protein – it accounts for 36 percent of the meat consumed in Ukraine – and small-scale pork production provides important income for rural populations.

The success of the campaign against ASF will largely depend on further complementary measures and effective disease surveillance, such as awareness raising among households – allowing producers to substitute pigs with other animals, or shifting from animal husbandry to other kinds of farming such as the production of high-value crops, and the implementation of social programs to offset household losses.

Ultimately, the project will help to provide the required laboratory support for rapid diagnoses, which in combination with other measures will allow for the early detection and eradication of the disease. 

See the African swine fever portal here

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