After days of silence on the topic, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke on the African Swine Fever crisis facing the country, after arriving in Pazardzhik where owners of domestic pigs were protesting against plans to kill the animals.
Borissov’s appearance coincided with an August 2 announcement by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency that the number of outbreaks among domestic pigs of African Swine Fever now added up to 30 in 10 districts, and 27 among wild pigs in 13 districts in the country.
The announcement by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency said that yet another new outbreak of African Swine Fever had been confirmed at an industrial pig farm, in the village of Vetren in the Silistra district, holding 8253 pigs.
Bulgaria is implementing European and its own national laws, meaning that these pigs face culling, the same fate as more than 100 000 in recent weeks.
The protests in at least three districts in Bulgaria have spread as owners of “back yard” pigs have objected to the order to either voluntarily kill their pigs or face the animals being culled by the Food Safety Agency. The protests are based, in part, by the order covering areas where there have been no confirmed outbreaks of African Swine Fever.
Borissov, who arrived in Pazardzhik accompanied by Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva, sought to defend the government’s record in responding to the crisis, while promising compensation.
He said that the state would pay 300 leva (about 150 euro) for the disinfection of the plot of land of every owner who voluntarily culled their domestic pigs.
Borissov said tht 75 per cent of the compensation would come from the European Union and the remainder from the Bulgarian state.
“No one is pleased about this (African Swine Fever),” Borissov said. “It’s like protesting against cancer. We managed to master it for two years, but now we don’t. All these people, for 30 years, all the institutes, have not found a vaccine,” he said.
Pig-owners in Pazardzhik have until August 11 to kill them. The deadline initially was August 2, but Taneva extended it as resistance in the area became clear.
Borissov said: “They come out and say: ‘They are killing healthy animals’. They are healthy today. There is a huge population of wild pigs. And I don’t know how a reduction of that population will happen. You want December 31 as a deadline (for culling), I’ll give you December 31.
“All of these people, with 20 000 employees, will be compensated, 75 per cent by Brussels, the rest by taxpayers,” he said.
Bulgarian National Radio reported that pig owners were not admitted to the meeting at the municipal administration building attended by Borissov and Taneva.
At the entrance, they presented Borissov with a statement demanding the maximum extension of the deadline for the voluntary culling of “back yard” pigs, and a precise statement about compensation and who will be entitled to it. The meeting was closed to the media.
August 2 was the second consecutive day of protests in Bulgaria about the response to the crisis in the village of Krushare in the Sliven district. Protesters again blocked the Sliven – Yambol road. The road would remain blocked all night, they said. They also blocked all access to Sliven in the direction of the Trakiya Motorway, BNR said.
The BNR report said that people in the area were adamant that they would not slaughter their pigs.
It quoted a farmer as saying: “I don;t know, no one will explain to me what the problem on the farm is. I have no animal that is sick. I have not slaughtered, and I will not. If they take them, I have two children left – take them too”.
The report said that people in the area believed that the government was working for the interests of the large industrial pig farms, not those of small farmers.
The Food Safety Agency report on the evening of August 21 said that there had been 11 outbreaks of African Swine Fever among domestic pigs in the Pleven district, one in the Bourgas district, two in the Vratsa district, six in the Rousse district, one in the Turgovishte district, three in the Veliko Turnovo district, one in the Vidin district, two in the Silistra district, two in the Montana district, and one in the case of a pig carcass found in the district (not city) of Sofia.
The 27 cases among feral pigs included seven in Silistra, six in Dobrich, two in Pleven, one in Varna, one in Vratsa, three in Rousse, one in Turgovishte, one in Montana, one in Turnovo, one in Razgrad, one in Vidin, one in Plovdiv and one in the Sofia district, in some cases involving more than one pig.
On August 2, representatives of Bulgaria’s industrial pig farms called for the declaration of a national state of emergency because of African Swine Fever and its continuing devastating effects, including on the immediate future of the country’s economy.