FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Team effort works to protect Ukraine rural economy from pig disease

African swine fever is a viral disease not harmful to human health, but it can have serious consequences for rural economies.

“In the past few years, Ukraine has had to face losses of over US$ 30 million due to the uncontrolled spread of ASF in the country,” said Vasyl Hovhera of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,” and these could increase significantly in the future.”

FAO – together with the EBRD and with support from the Government of Japan – has been working since 2014 with Ukraine’s Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food to mitigate risks and help prevent further damage from the ASF epidemic.

An event titled “African swine fever: risk awareness raising and risk mitigation,” held in Kiev on 28 April, was organized by the Association of Pig Producers of Ukraine with support from FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

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

Attended by 150 participants – pork producers, government representatives, local and national journalists, experts and others – the event was an opportunity to share experiences on biosecurity, awareness raising, and developing common strategies for preventing the disease.

Some of those strategies are highlighted in a short animated video produced under the FAO-EBRD project.

Once African swine fever is introduced to a territory, it is extremely difficult to control and eradicate. The 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 is available to prevent infection. Some countries have succeeded in bringing outbreaks under control with swift and thorough culling and disposal of all infected and potentially exposed animals, and by imposing strict movement bans on swine and pork products. Controls may remain in place for years, since populations of wild pigs and boars can act as a reservoir for the virus.

Andriy Rozstalnyy, FAO animal production and health officer, emphasized the need for collaboration in handling African swine fever as a joint undertaking, as it is currently the greatest threat to the development of Ukraine’s pork sector.

“Thanks to the work being carried out under this project,” he said, “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.”

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.

The April event was part of the joint FAO-EBRD project “African swine fever: Risk awareness raising and risk mitigation in Ukraine,” which contributes to FAO's strategic objective of supporting inclusive and efficient food systems.

26 May 2016, Kiev, Ukraine