September 28, 2023 – On June 26, 2023, the Croatian Veterinary Institute confirmed the presence of African swine fever in Croatia. The virus was found in blood samples from sick pigs and organ samples from dead pigs taken from two facilities in the area of Posavski Podgajci in Vukovar-Srijem County.
As Jutarnji wrote, African swine fever (ASF) is a viral infectious disease of domestic and wild pigs. It is not dangerous for humans and other animals, but it is almost 100% fatal for pigs, which can have serious economic consequences.
The Ministry of Agriculture then published a press release on June 26 to urge all pig farmers to strictly comply with all prescribed measures and all measures determined by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Veterinary Inspection.
They mandated every death or disease in pigs be immediately reported to a veterinarian, and it was strictly forbidden to bury dead pigs or take away carcasses without prior notification to the veterinarian.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the State Inspectorate stated they would do everything to localize African swine fever in Croatia and eradicate it from the infected area as soon as possible and to prevent its further spread, but emphasized that the human factor plays a significant role.
Current State and Extent of African Swine Fever in Croatia – Worries and Explanations
Fast forward to three months later – more than 17,000 pigs who were either infected or at risk have been euthanized. The spread of the disease has caused turmoil between local units and the government, farmers, and everyone involved.
On the average citizen level, for almost all three months, there were police checkpoints between Vukovar-Srijem and Osijek-Baranja counties controlling vehicles potentially transporting pigs or pig meat. Eerie. The affected farmers were promised compensation, but questions still remain, e.g. what will happen with the Croatian winter ritual of svinjokolja (the preparation of meat and production of various pork products to be stored or cured for the winter) and how this will affect the economy, especially the price of meat.
In the latest news, Index quotes Antun Golubović, head of the Pig Breeding Committee of the Croatian Chamber of Agriculture, who said that the profession has failed in all segments, starting with veterinary medicine, inspectorates and civil protection.
“It is unacceptable that the heads of local civil protection refuse to work to prevent the spread of an infectious disease. We ourselves know that this is subject to the Criminal Code and that such things are severely punishable. How far does the arrogance of the heads of civil protection at the local level go? I have warned several times about such things.
I asked for the army to be involved in removing the cattle and helping with the loading and transport of carcasses from the farms. Everyone laughed and said that it was going according to plan. Today we reached the figure of 17,000 pigs that were euthanized in our county. That makes two percent, which is a lot at the national level. All the aid that was supposed to go to livestock farmers will end up in the meat industry,” Golubović said.
Secretary of State: All in Accordance with Guidelines
State Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mladen Pavić, claims that since June 23, when African swine fever was suspected, all measures in the Posavski Podgajci farms have been taken in accordance with the guidelines.
“Suspicions arose, there were deaths, samples were taken, they were sent to the laboratory, which delivered a positive result in two days. While they waited for the result, all measures were taken on the farm in question. After the results, euthanasia was performed.” said the Secretary of State.
Responding to Golubović, Pavić said that pig meat that ends up going into processing has a reduced value in relation to the usefulness of individual positions of the pig.
“It all goes into processing. Even the most valuable pieces that would achieve a higher value on the market, such as fresh meat. For this reason, we have introduced support of 80 cents, which will go to producers, not the meat industry,” he said.
Is the Worst Over?
Lorena Jemrešić, head of the Virology Department of the Croatian Veterinary Institute, recalls that after the first case in Posavski Podgajci, the disease began to spread in the surrounding towns.
“Every disease has its origin, creation, development, its peak and slowdown, and so will the African swine fever in Croatia. The sudden spread of the disease has passed. The disease is kept under control insofar as it does not spread as quickly as it did at the beginning of the outbreak.
I believe that after the new stagnation, which will take a while, it will not pass in a moment, there will be a decrease in the number of new cases from week to week,” points out Jemrešić.
“Jemrešić notes that there are still many infected animals, but that with the measures taken, the number of infected pigs is decreasing.
“As for the epidemiological situation, and since it is an infectious disease, it can appear unexpectedly in a completely different location, and if that happens, we will have to act in the same way,” said Jemrešić.
Compensation FOR Farmers
On her work visit to Vukovar-Srijem county, writes the Ministry, minister Vučković commented on the support that Croatian farmers received.
“So far, 220 beneficiaries have been paid in a total amount of more than one million euros. Another 108 minutes have been processed, and their payment of around 790 thousand euros is underway. Thus, with the third decision, support will be paid to 328 farms, almost 1.9 million euros. There are also 141 beneficiaries, according to the special Decision that the Government passed at last week’s session, worth around 432 thousand euros. This is the government that has invested 600 million euros in the Vukovar-Srijem County, and that will provide assistance to all affected landowners and provide prerequisites for the restoration of pig farming, but also support those who want to otherwise engage in production”.
Winter Prep and Meat Prices
While it has been contained in Vukovar-Srijem, the disease is just a step away from Osijek-Baranja County, where a third of the country’s pig farming takes place. As Index reports, the mass euthanizing of the pigs has thrown pig farmers into despair, who say the disease will cause significant problems in the market.
“The European Union is reducing pork production, that is the largest producers such as Denmark and Germany. We think that the price of pork will increase by 25 to 35% within a year. We will pay 8 euros for meat, almost equal to beef”, believes Antun Golubović.
It is unlikely that the demand for pork will decrease because, on average, Croatian citizens consume pork the most, with estimates of around 40 kilograms per year. However, it is increasingly likely that many will not be able to afford cured pork products. A kilogram of the beloved Slavonian čvarak (pork cracklings) already costs 24 euros, prosciutto goes for 20, while a kilogram of kulen will cost almost 40 euros.