Lithuania – finally the end of the pig farming crisis?

© Beny Shlevich wikicommons

The year 2011 was very difficult for Lithuanian pig farmers. According to the Lithuanian pig producers association, the number of pigs reared in the country fluctuates between 500,000-600,000 pigs. Almost half of the pigs are kept in large farms where the number of pigs exceed one thousand. Over the last decade, Lithuania traditionally had a surplus in pig trade. Exports have exceeded imports by approximately ten. The crucial market traditionally was Russia which buys more than half of all pigs for sale. Lithuania exports hundreds of thousands of live pigs each year – in 2010 the total number of live pig exports was 442,600. The country imports some live pigs as well, especially from Poland and Latvia.

In July 2009  Classical Swine Fever was confirmed at a pig farm owned by Danish operator – Saerimner near the town of Panevezys. Although Lithuania often imports piglets from Denmark, Danish authorities suggested that there is no direct connection between outbreak in Lithuania and the Danish pig production sites. In August that year Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT) reported that the outbreak of Swine Fever was eliminated, as a result VMVT lifted all restrictions on the export of pigs to the EU from the contaminated areas.

Even before the Swine Fever outbrake the production of pig carcasses in the country during the first two quarters of 2009 was only 20,000 tonnes, that is 26.9 % less than in 2008. More importantly, almost all the Lithuanian processed meat products are exported, while most of the products sold on the domestic market are made from imported meat, causing losses for domestic meat processors and producers. Until recently Russia was the biggest sale market for the Lithuanian red meat especially when swine flu pandemic threat led to restrictions on pork imports from the US, Canada and Spain.

In June 2011 came another blow to Lithuanian pig farmers – African Swine Fever was detected in Jonava district, in consequence almost half of the pork producers claimed that they are operating on the brink of survival, because of significant reduction in consumption and prices. Due to the outbreaks in the country veterinary services had to kill about 40,000 pigs. Since July 2011 Lithuania has been banned from exporting pork to Russia, while the import supplies of live pigs to Russia has been stopped since 1 June.

So in this way the traditional market for Lithuanian pig meat, Russia, was closed, and as a consequence, the entire volume of pig meat of domestic producers flooded Lithuanian market, where the prices are 10%-15% lower than in Russia. Additionally European Commission banned the export of pork from Lithuania until the end of October 2011. The situation started to change on September 27th when Russian authorities allowed the import of pork produced in Lithuania, with exeption of Kaunas region – the area of the latest devastating outbreak of Swine Fever.

According to Lithuanian authorities several regions of the Russian Federation in recent months were a source of African Swine Fever affecting Lithuania. The head of the Russian Veterinary Service, Rosselkhoznador, Sergey Dankvert said at the World Pork Conference earlier this year, that the disease, which is currently in the Northern Caucasus, creates continous danger of spreading.