The number of pigs is unlikely to increase in Estonia this year and the share of imported pork is set to increase further in the near term as a full recovery of the industry is estimated to take at least three years, meatpacker Atria Lihatööstus board chairman Olle Horm said.
"Basically, the number of pigs in Estonia has dropped from 380,000 to 280,000 since 2015, while meat consumption has grown year after year," Horm told BNS on Tuesday. "While in 2014, Estonia met its own demand for pork, we are now in a situation where almost 30 percent of pork is imported.
"We very much hope that Estonia is able to recover this 370,000-380,000 in pig stock numbers," he continued, adding that for this to happen, they would first and foremost require cooperation between pork producers and the industry and noting that the state had pledged some support as well.
"The government has supported pork producers quite significantly this year, but that has been used to heal old wounds, so to speak," Horm explained. "That the number of pigs would start increasing again is nowhere to be seen yet. Currently, imports are still increasing."
The board chairman said that in the best case, the recovery of the pork production sector would take three years.
"What we need is courage to take bigger risks," he said. "We won't have that courage as long as the zone three of African swine fever (ASF) control hasn't disappeared in Estonia. This is clearly one indicator that precludes export."
Exports can follow once numbers have recovered
Horm said that those Estonian pork producers who overcame recent years' difficult times are coping well at the moment.
When pig stock numbers recover, Estonian producers will also be able to export to bigger meat-processing entities worldwide.
"Geographically, Russia is the closest external market for us, however you cannot count on that in the present political climate," he said. "But there is a market both within the EU and outside of it. I'm afraid that, on the subject of export to China, this is a bureaucratic and politically regulated process for Estonian companies at the moment; our volumes are not so big as to be setting our sights on China. But speaking of more remote markets, there are Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam. Rakvere recently mentioned New Zealand too. There's plenty of opportunity."
Editor: Aili Vahtla