Belarus denies ASF accusation as pigs “disappear”


By Vladislav Vorotnikov, GlobalMeatNews



Almost 500,000 pigs have disappeared in Belarus since January 2018, driving the domestic live pig population down to its lowest level since 2011.


The phenomenon has prompted speculation from Russian authorities that African swine fever (ASF) is rife in Belarus, despite strong denials from local officials. And, so far, no official explanation to the sudden fall in pig numbers has been given.


Belarus lost 15% of its pigs during the first quarter of 2018, with the total number dropping from 3.1 million to 2.6 million head, according to data revealed by the National Statistical Service. In some regions, for example in Brest Oblast, the number of pigs has decreased by about 25% from early 2018, and several major pig farms have been closed.


However, there has been no significant jump in meat production. During the first two months of 2018, Belarus increased production of meat and poultry by 0.8% to 297,000 tonnes (t), compared to the same period in the previous year, according to the Statistical Service.


ASF outbreaks reach unprecedented scale​


Since 10 April, Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has banned imports of live pigs, pork and all products containing any pig-derived components from Belarus. Rosselkhoznadzor claimed it had found the African swine fever (ASF) genome in eight batches of sausages imported from the Gomel Meat Processing Plant in Belarus. However, it is unclear where the virus came from, as Belarus has insisted that its territory has been completely ASF-free since 2014.


“It seems our colleagues from Belarus are hiding the occurrence of ASF outbreaks in the territory of the Republic [of Belarus]. This pushes us to tighten controls over the imports of some products from our neighbouring countries​,” commented Russia’s Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev, speaking during a press conference in Moscow on 10 April.


Belarus officials have denied these accusations, however, saying the last ASF outbreak in the country was officially registered more than four years ago...