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ASF situation in Russia continues to worsen

By Vladislav Vorotnikov , 28-Feb-2014

Russia's African swine fever problems worsen
Russia's African swine fever problems worsen

While the first outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) have now been registered in the eastern part of the European Union, in Russia, where the disease has raged for six years, veterinary specialists predict a further deterioration of the situation in 2014.

The cold winter season in Russia is now coming to an end, which is likely to result in increasing outbreaks of the disease, they say. They also predict that, in 2014, ASF will cover new regions and will pose a threat to other neighbouring countries.

"The threat of new outbreaks of ASF, including in administrative territories formerly free from the disease, is high this year," said Svetlana Dresvyannikova, director of the Veterinary Department of Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture. "For instance, in January, four further outbreaks of ASF were discovered in the Volgograd, Kaluga, Tula and Bryansk Oblasts. In the Bryansk Region, this is the first time the disease has been registered."

Also, according to Dresvyannikova, the area of Russia covered by the ASF virus is growing each year.

"In 2011, the disease was detected in eight regions of the South Federal District and the North Caucasus Federal District, as well as in two regions of the Volga Federal District, in three regions of the Northwest District, and three regions of the Central Federal District. Then, in 2012-2013, ASF outbreaks were also reported in new regions – in particular three regions of the North-West Federal District and eight regions of the Central Federal District," she added.

As of 2012, Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor estimated the direct losses from ASF had already hit US$1bn, and it is estimated that, in 2014, this figure could exceed US$1.5bn. At the same time, "indirect" losses could amount to tens of billions of dollars. This figure takes into account all the possible consequences of banning the turnover of pork products within the country, actions by veterinary services to curb the spread of the disease, as well as a possible loss of investment attractiveness in the industry.

"The ASF problem is not only a challenge for Russia. In 2014, it is projected that the area of distribution of the disease will expand into Ukraine, which will bring a direct threat to Hungary, Romania and Moldova," noted agricultural analyst Eugene Gerden. "The spread of the disease in the south of Russia threatens Kazakhstan, although the likelihood that it will penetrate that country in 2014 is low, due to the small concentration of pig farms in the border areas, and the small number of wild boars in the region."

In addition, Rosselkhoznadzor has calculated that, in Russia, the ASF virus spreads at an average speed of almost one kilometre a day, steadily covering new territories. As such, it can be calculated that, by the end of the year, it could spread to five or six new regions in the country.

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