Russia’s plans to double pig production over the next 10 years and substantially reduce imports could be threatened by its expected accession to the World Trade Organization in 2012, according to Kovalev Yury, director general of Russia’s National Union of Swine Breeders, who spoke at the European Pig Producers Congress in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 30.

Yury spoke to more than 300 delegates from 19 different countries, and said that major investments in swine breeding, supported by approved business plans, are already underway in Russia's main pig producing regions. In addition, processing plants are being upgraded and within the next five years the number of animals processed at modern plants is expected to grow from the current 12 percent of the total slaughtered to more than 60 percent.

However, Russian pig producers could be one of the big losers when Russia joins the World Trade Organization, according to Yury. Joining the organization will lead to a reduction in import tariffs on pig meat as well as live imports, and could lead to losses of up to US$7 million, he said. “However, we believe there is room for everybody, and while we will accept the WTO regulations, we will also use all legitimate measures available to protect our market,” he said.


Another topic discussed at the opening day of the congress was African swine fever. “The government is taking action against ‘backyard producers’, and this will help reduce the disease problems," said Yury. “The government also has a special program to fight disease — and I think we need to learn to live with it. I am also hoping a vaccine will soon be developed to help us eradicate [African swine fever].”

Another speaker, Algis Baravykas of the Lithuanian Pig Producers Association, discussed local industry concerns regarding new rules regulating odors and air quality in and around pig farms, as well as controls on the disposal of manure. Meat consumers, he said, are being misguided by the mass media and prefer "backyard farmers’ production" to the modern methods, because they believe “big farms” are feeding the wrong feed and forcing pigs to grow too quickly. Baravykas said the pig sector has a major job to do to give consumers a positive outlook on pig production, reduce bureaucracy and attract young farmers.

The conference continues on May 31 and will be followed by a series of farm visits for delegates on June 1.