The first classic swine fever infection case was registered in Latvia in November 2012. The first African swine fever infection case was registered in Latvia in June 2014. Responsible institutions were provided with additional funding of EUR 13.9 million in order to combat both of those dangerous and highly contagious diseases.
In spite of preventive measures and additional funding allocated to combat diseases, the spread of ASF in Latvia continues, devastating the livestock sector, as concluded by Latvian State Audit.
Ever since 2000, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has been asking Latvia to properly educate its farmers in methods for identifying the disease and taking measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The government was advised to come up with an ASF combating action plan in 2009. But only after the first ASF case was registered in Latvia did Agriculture Ministry start to act. Measures employed by Latvian authorities included reducing the population of wild boars and enhancing bio-security requirements.
Even though the European Commission’s guidelines had included other methods of limiting the spread of the disease (stricter bio-security requirements for farmers keeping domestic pigs and stricter rules for transport of pigs and their meat), Agriculture Ministry chose the method of putting down healthy domestic pigs in areas where ASF was registered and paying compensation to farmers.
The ministry’s developed rules provided that compensation would be paid to farmers whose livestock was put down to limit the spread of ASF in the country. Compensation was also paid to traders whose business was impacted by restrictions on transport of pork. In total, the government has paid EUR 2.2 million in compensations – EUR 0.7 million for failure to comply with bio-security requirements and EUR 1.5 million for impacted business.
After looking at compensations for failure to comply with bio-security requirements, state auditors concluded that none of the state institutions otherwise responsible for monitoring compliance had made certain farmers who were keeping pigs were following bio-security precautions. The audit revealed at least 17 cases when specific requirements were breached.
Poorly managed use of money allocated specifically to combat ASF was also noted in the Food and Veterinary Service. Recipient of the largest amount of funding – FVS – had procured 22 vehicles for checkpoint needs and for transporting carcasses of wild boars. Six of those vehicles were passed to the central office in Riga. On top of that, none of them are currently used for their intended purposes. The main route of those cars was reportedly home – work, State Audit Reports.
Opposite to the decisions made by the Cabinet of Ministers, FVS had provided part of those finances to employees in the form of a 22% wage increase. A large number of management employees had received a 30% bonus to their wages. Lower-rank employees engaged in ASF combating measures did not receive such bonuses.
State Auditor Elita Krumina notes: «African swine fever epidemic is not over. EC has already said it will take at least until the end of 2019 to finish all measures. With that, we do not understand why Agriculture Ministry’s strategy for 2014-2016 does not include any measures to combat this disease. Considering everything that was uncovered during the audit and the way finances allocated for combating ASF have been spent so far, we ask officials to carefully consider any future decisions to allocate additional funding.»