ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMMES FOR THE RESTRUCTURING OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY IN LITHUANIA

Dr. ARÛNAS SVITOJUSa,
ALMONAS GUTKAUSKASb

a The Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Lithuania
b Chief Ecologist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Lithuania

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Abstract

Lithuania is a country where animal production forms the major part of agriculture.

During the current period of transition and before the planned entry into the EU, the Lithuanian agriculture is being restructured extensively. One of the most important processes involved is the shift from natural resource consuming and polluting farming methods to sustainable and ecological agriculture which leads to important changes in the farming structures

Lithuania was the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to develop strategic guidelines, legislation and programmes at government level for the transition to ecological farming:

This year the “Tatula” programme was extended this year to the entire Lithuanian territory.

Non-government organizations and agricultural research, training and extension institutes have also given great impetus to the movement of ecological agriculture. The “Gaja” society is one of the most famous and successful ones among these organizations. The “Tatula” programme has been implemented for five years. The programme develops ecological, sustainable and alternative farming. At the same time the programme puts great emphasis on ecological training, extension, research and ecological monitoring. The target for the year 2005, set by the strategic guidelines and the “Tatula” programme, is that ecological farming will constitute 5% or 40,000 ha of agricultural land in the Karstic region and 80,000 ha in all Lithuania. Lithuania has 33 large pig raising complexes with a capacity of 12,000 to 54,000 pigs per year. The aggregate pollution of these enterprises is equivalent to the pollution of a city with a population of 5 million. In 1996 a separate national programme was approved to convert these complexes into sustainable farms.

1. Introduction

On 1 January, 1996, the population of Lithuania amounted to 3.71 million, 32% of whom were rural residents.

On 1 January, 1997, the total area of the country was 6,530 thousand ha. Of this total, agricultural land made up 3,504 thousand ha (53.7%), forests - 1,979 thousand ha (30. 3%), water - 263 thousand ha (4.0%) and bogs - 150 thousand ha (2.3%). Drainage systems were installed on 3,046 ha.

The area of protected territories is 724,033 ha or 11.08% of the total area of the republic, including five state preserves (23,508 ha or 0. 4%), five national parks (138,070 ha or 2.1%), thirty regional parks (380,880 ha or 5.8%), 290 state preserves (176,390 ha or 2.7%) and 62 municipal preserves (5,035 ha).

The changing market structure, the decline in available feed, the fragmentation of land holding and the uncertainty among the new private owners have led to a major reduction of the country's livestock population. The population of pigs and poultry declined sharply during 1992, when imported feed became increasingly difficult to obtain. Overall, the population of cattle, cows, pigs, small ruminants and poultry declined by 56, 31, 53, 40 and 51% respectively from 1989 to 1996 (Figure 1); the number of horses stayed around 78,000 throughout the period; the number of goats and rabbits also remained stable as well or increased slightly (Table 1).

Figure 1: Livestock population 1989 – 1997

Figure 1

The number of fish farms, which also depend on concentrate feed, fell, as did the numbers of farms with fur animals. These numbers are tentative, as the data collection system is also in transition, and data from new private farmers are difficult to collect. Data are mainly derived from the Lithuanian Department of Statistics.

Table 1: Population of the animals and poultry in Lithuania (thousands)

 198919901991199219931994199519961997
Total cattle243524222322219717011384115210651054
Cows850848842832738678615586590
Total pigs270527302436218013601196126012701128
Sows1961981901759281705958
Horses787880838081787881
Sheep756557585245403245
Goats44569101215
Poultry1723117486168751699482588728884884447775

2. Main developments in the animal husbandry sector

The Lithuanian agriculture is based on animal production. Even in crop production the feed crops predominate. Before World War II, Lithuania successfully exported its animal products to Western European markets. Until the proclamation of independence in 1990, Lithuanian agriculture did not have problems with the marketing of its products either. About half of its production was exported into the Soviet Union. The production was increased more and more without considering environmental consequences. Chemicals were used ruthlessly, land was reclaimed and large animal husbandry complexes were constructed. All this ceased promptly at the beginning of the transition period. During 1990–1995 not only the production fell (meat by 60% and milk by 42%) but domestic consumption declined as well (by 52% and 45% respectively). The export of Lithuanian products to traditional and to domestic markets have become increasingly difficult. The meat-processing plants process large quantities of cheap imported meat which is detrimental to local farmers. Difficulties in the marketing of animals has lead to a huge fall in feed crop production. The delivered products were no longer paid for.

The conditions of the market economy are causing drastic changes in the structure of the crop production patterns. In the long run changes will only increase.

We think that even if the entire agriculture will be transformed into a sustainable and ecological agriculture (and this will, of course, take much more than one or two years), the cultivation of traditional crops shall be abandoned in the less-productive area of over 1,000,000 ha (the areas where the coefficient of productivity is under 45). There are no ready-made recipes for suitable activities for this type of land. The development of investment programmes to solve this problem is, however, being initiated.

In 1997 the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry created the Rural Support Fund, which will accumulate the funds from the state budget and other sources allocated for the support of investment programmes and projects. However, it is not realistic to think that all less productive and ecologically sensitive lands can be converted to forest. People live in those areas and they cannot go anywhere else. It is also not realistic to believe that the majority of farmers will be able to introduce alternative forms of farming.

Therefore, we are inclined to think that a real alternative could be grassland cultivation coupled with animal husbandry. This might, however, be a very daring assumption in the present day situation where the supply of animals is well above the demand. Moreover, the hope of being competitive in world markets is not very realistic in the short run, at least not until the radical restructuring of the animal production sector is completed.

During the period of transition and preparation for the EU membership, the restructuring process in animal husbandry takes three main directions:

3. Environmental programmes in the animal husbandry sector

The “Tatula” Programme: The movement of non-government organizations and agricultural research, training and extension institutes.

Lithuania was the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to develop strategic guidelines, legislation and programmes at government level for the transition to ecological farming:

This year the programme “Tatula” was extended to the entire Lithuanian territory. Non-government organizations and agricultural research, training and extension institutions have also given great impetus to the movement of ecological agriculture. This is very important in present day conditions when our financial resources are very limited. The “Gaja” society is one of the most famous and successful ones of these organizations.

The “Tatula” Programme has been implemented for five years. It is a complex investment programme. The state budget allocates 1.0 millions USD for “Tatula” every year. The programme develops ecological, sustainable and alternative farming, one of the important tools being pilot projects and schemes. At the same time the programme puts great emphasis on ecological training, extension, research and ecological monitoring. The self-governing cooperative body named the Fund of “Tatula”(in the beginning of 1997 it was reregistered as a non-profit organization “Tatulos programa”) includes 98 farmers, 9 agricultural companies, 13 processing enterprises and other organizations. The membership of “Tatulos programa” is rapidly increasing.

Forty farmers and 5 processing enterprises have received large amounts of interest-free credits (from 5.0 to 125.0 thousand USD). The credits are allocated on a competitive basis and a business plan is one of the requirements. The “Tatulos programa” will channel the repayments of the credits.

The ecological farming in the Karstic region concentrates on two main sectors: feed production and animal husbandry. Two companies from the Karstic region that belong to the “Tatulos programa” are famous throughout our country - they are the meat company UAB Jovaras and the Birzai Joint Stock Dairy Company.

Large amounts of interest-free credits were allocated to Mr. A. Ratkus, a farmer, (50,000 USD) for the construction of a pilot dairy farm (this project is also supported by the above-mentioned Birzai Joint Stock Dairy Company), to Mr. B. Morkvenas (6,000 USD), veterinary doctor, for the development of a ecoveterinary hospital and to Mr. P. Kasiulynas (12,400), veterinary doctor, for the development of an ecological animal breeding farm.

The strategic guidelines and the “Tatula” programme targeted for the year 2005 that ecological farming would constitute 5% or 40,000 ha of agricultural land in the Karstic region (as experience all over the world shows, 5% constitutes a serious break-through in the development process) and 80,000 ha in all Lithuania. Sustainable farming needs to be expanded considerably as it is the best way to fight competition in both foreign and domestic markets.

The initial period of the implementation of the programme gives us reason for optimism about the potential market for ecoproducts. It appears that the demand for certified ecoproducts will not be met for a long time in both the domestic and the international markets. This assumption is confirmed by three years of our activities in organizing a marketing chain and exhibitions for ecoproducts. However, contrary to what we assumed, two problems proved to be more complicated than expected:

The programme for restructuring large animal husbandry complexes. The Karstic region possesses two large pig complexes: the AB Salnaiciu agrofirma in Pasvalys region (12 thousands pigs per year) and the AB Ausruvos agrofirma (27 thousand pigs per year). They are very big sources of local pollution, but due to the limited funds of the “Tatula” programme we have not yet been able to start restructuring them.

Lithuania has 33 large pig raising complexes (further referred to as complexes) with a capacity of 12,000 to 54,000 pigs per year. There is a separate national programme, approved in 1996, to convert these complexes into sustainable farming enterprises. However, in the present financial situation we cannot yet implement this programme.

Certain researchers, politicians and experts consider large complexes a potential threat to the environment. Especially those that are built close to protected areas, (AB Ausruvos agrofirma in Birzai district, AB Salnaiciu agrofirma in Pasvals district, AB Gaurupës agrofirma in Taurage district etc. ), towns or cities (Agricultural company Sirvinta in Sirvintai district, UAB Eigirdzio agrofirma in the Telsiai district etc. ).

According to the calculations made by the water management institute, the aggregate pollution of Lithuanian pig complexes is equivalent to that of a city with 5 million inhabitants (industry excluded).

In the past, pig complexes with a capacity of 12,000 pigs a year had the problem of how to dispose of their manure. This was solved by mechanic transport. During the spring and fall, however, fields were impassable, and in the summer there were not enough areas in which to spread slurry. The problem became more acute when it became clear that there were about 200 cubic meters of slurry per day instead of the planned 100. To solve this problem, the government allotted funds for the construction of irrigation systems. In order to enable complexes to spread slurry through the irrigation systems, the construction of equipment for the separation of fractions, sedimentation and storage of slurry started.

At that time (1974–1984) people were of the opinion that this technology of slurry utilization was a progressive from an ecological point of view.

Although this technology was implemented through government funds, the local governments of four districts refused to implement it. That is why the complexes in these four districts as well as the above mentioned complex AB “Dalnaièi∅ agrofirma” in Pasvalys region (due to a very high degree infiltration in the ground), lack irrigation systems. In other complexes only half of the irrigation systems planned had been completed at the end of the Soviet period.

In 1988 and afterwards, when the activities of the “Greens” reached their peak, the ecological awareness grew. It became clear that the above mentioned technology, where manure is removed from pigsties by using water, goes against the requirements of ecology (the exception is the AB “Santuva” complex in Mariampole district where manure is removed mechanically.

Researchers have developed concepts on restructuring the large complexes. They have practically investigated all possible technologies for the removal and use of manure. To introduce a new technology instead of using an already existing and not yet fully completed technology involves a major reconstruction. In the nineties no funds for such an undertaking were available any longer. Besides, there are doubts whether it is reasonable to maintain these gigantic enterprises which were imposed on Lithuania during the Soviet period.

After 1990, when the kolkhoses were disrupted, the complexes subsisted as main pork producers in the country. The economic situation of many of them became stronger.

After the beginning of the reforms in agriculture, ecological awareness became less. Besides, the agrarian reform has a direct impact because the irrigated areas around the large complexes where manure was spread, used to be state property. They are now returned to their former owners and the problem of lease agreements arises. These complexes lack the funds to maintain and repair the irrigation systems.

In this way, the complexes carry the heavy burden of unresolved ecological problems. If we do not solve them, we cannot even prevent this pollution to reach the Baltic sea.

If the environmental issues are not solved and if the production technology is not changed radically complexes will be unable to meet the competition because of their very high cost of production. The complex most successful in restructuring is AB “Krekenavos agrofirma” which has started to introduce innovations since the first days of the agricultural restructuring. They hope to have their meat processing enterprise certified by the EU Commission in Brussels in July 1997.

References

Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. Department of Statistics of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, Vilnius, 1996.

The Land Fund of the Republic of Lithuania for January 1, 1997. State Land Management and Geodesy Service at the Ministry of Agriculture, State Land Cadaster Company, Vilnius, 1997(in Lithuanian).

Human Resources Development and Support to Cattle Breeding Project. Lithuanian Livestock(Cattle) Survey, 1996.