The measure has been proposed to improve the veterinary situation in the country, but it also could incite a major strike by smallholder farmers.
Backyard farms (smallholdings) are estimated to have produced up to 25% of the meat in Ukraine in 2017. They operate primarily in the beef, lamb and pork categories. In total, Ukraine manufactured 2.3 million tonnes of meat last year, according to official statistics.
In an explanatory note to the bill, Ukraine MPs specified that the measure was needed in order to tackle and reduce the continuing spread of African swine fever (ASF) throughout the country.
In 2016 and 2017 respectively, 91 and 140 outbreaks of ASF were registered in Ukraine and, in many cases, these incidents were linked to an absence of proper controls over the transportation and slaughter of livestock, Ukraine MPs stressed.
If finally approved, the measure would be introduced from 2020. Technically, smallholdings would still be able to sell meat to customers, but given the small number of certified slaughterhouses in the country, some of them would not be able to continue to do so.
From April 2018, Ukraine is to limit the number of animals allowed to be slaughtered outside certified slaughterhouses from three head per farm per day to three head per week. This measure has already sparked protests among farmers, who have claimed that it would negatively impact their business, due to the higher logistics costs, and could put a pressure on the country’s meat output.
Vladislav Marder, a local farmer, told a local news outlet VP that while the proposed measures seemed justified, there were extremely low numbers of certified slaughterhouses in Ukraine and most of them were working for the major meat companies. Given this, he said, it was quite possible that, as soon as the restrictive measures came into force, there would be a strong price hike in the market.
Irina Palamar, chairman of the Ukraine Livestock Association (ULA), in a statement on the organisation’s website, also raised concerns that the bill could leave smallholders in the country without any means of existence.
She explained there were numerous people for whom meat production was the only way of earning money and, in this respect, some measures were needed to support them.
In particular, the authorities could consider issuing soft loans for the construction of new licensed slaughterhouses in the country, said Palamar.
Speaking at a recent press-conference in Kiev, Volodimir Lapa, director of the state veterinary body Gosprodsluzba, estimated there were 400 certified slaughterhouses in Ukraine. He admitted that, in some cases, the distance between the farmer and the nearest slaughterhouse could be more than 100km, so it was obvious that “nobody would transport animals over a distance like that”.