Pig Sector Challenges in Serbia

African Swine Fever (ASF) has reached Serbia and the pig sector is now facing new difficulties.

Close-up of a curious pig's snout sticking out of behind a fence.
Beeld: ©Pexels

The appearance of African Swine Fever (ASF) has been confirmed in ten countries in Europe. Neighboring countries of Serbia, including Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, are dealing with recently identified or long-ongoing outbreaks of ASF (source OIE), so it was to be expected that ASF would be detected in Serbia as well. Last Friday, four positive cases have been confirmed in animals at three backyard farms in the village of Aleksandrvac in Eastern Serbia. There are no large-sized or commercial pig farms in the area. The State Veterinary authorities have declared the village to be an infected area within a radius of 3 km, and proclaimed the surrounding territory an endangered area within a radius of 10 km. All measures are being taken in order to prevent the spreading of the disease. (More available here in Serbian) This recent outbreak of ASF will put more pressure on the already struggling Serbian pig sector.  

Pig farming in Serbia

The main characteristic of the Serbian pig sector is its fragmentation. Small scale farmers are predominant in the livestock production. According to surveillance conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2018, the number of pig farms decreased by 10% and the number of animals dropped by 4% compared to the agricultural census done in 2012. There are 320 thousand registered households involved in pig farming which accounts for 57% of all registered farms and they hold 3.3 million pigs. The majority are small households/family farms but also, there are more than two thousand commercial farms. The average number of pigs per farm is 10.2 and the average farm size is 5.4 ha (source: Green Book, MoA).

According to the database of the Veterinary Directorate of Serbia, the number of commercial farms operating in the pig sector is 2.037. The table below shows the number of animals per farm. (source: Sector analyses)

Number of animals per farm
Number of animals Number of farms
1-49 69
50-99 134
100-199 426
200-299 268
300-499 298
500-999 179
1 000 - 2 999 117
3 000 - 4 999 27
5 000 - 6 999 10
7 000 - 9 999 11
10 000 - 14 999 21
15 000 - 19 999 12
20 000 - 49 999 21
50 000 + 2
Not inhabited 442

The size difference between the average farm in the north part (19.1 animal) and in the south part (7 animals) of the county is significant. Majority of commercial and professional pig farms are located in the northern part of the country.

Number of pigs in Serbia (thousand)
Piglets, (weight -20kg) Pigs (weight 20-49kg Fattening pigs (weight 50-79kg) Fattening pigs (weight 80-109kg) Fattening pigs (weight 110kg+) Breeding pigs - gilts Breeding pigs - mated gilts Breeding pigs - sows Breeding pigs - mated sows Breeding pigs - Boars Pigs - total Out of total: Fattened pigs
2017 945 579 352 305 259 101 20 350 157 20 2911 1301
2018 917 549 325 268 257 103 28 343 154 21 2782 1305
2019 965 544 337 266 283 92 23 350 171 25 2903 1382

Financial support

The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture considers pig meat production to be a priority sector and thus allocates finances for direct payments from the national budget (support for the increase of number of animals; pure breed animals; investments in equipment; support to the feed production etc). Besides the national support there are possibilities to apply for EU funds for rural development (support in the form of re-fund up to 70%). Depending on the type of investment this support can range from 700.000 EUR to 2 million EUR.

Two years ago, the Serbian Government signed a special memorandum of understanding with German meat producer Tönnies in order to start pig production in Serbia. Foreign investments in this sector receive state subsidies per employee. The MoU with Tönnies is still not yet implemented.

Consumption and trade

Pig farming is the second most important branch of livestock husbandry in Serbia by value of production. The level of consumption of pork is very high and it ranks first with 55-60% of the total meat consumption. In 2019, the total pig meat consumption was 377 thousand tons or 54kg/person. 

There is a demand for the increase of local production, however, it has difficulties with competitiveness. Despite the financial support, challenges remain in the improvement of farm management; need to increase in farm size; necessary improvement of genetics and housing for pigs; meat quality standards etc. Overall, Serbia is a net importing country of live pigs and pig meat.

Classical Swine Fever: Serbia has been struggling with classical swine fever for years. On December 15, 2019, Serbia has stopped vaccination against Classical Swine Fever (CSF). This vaccination was a an obstacle for the export and/or transit of fresh pig meat to the EU market. The state has prepared contingency plans in the case of the outbreak but if there will be no case of CSF in the next two years, country will be declared free from CSF and consequently will be able to export/transit via the EU.   For the time being, Serbia can export only thermally processed meat.

The import of pork increased in the last couple of years. The total production of pig meat in 2018 was 344 thousand tons and an additional 56 thousand tons were imported. Imported meat is mostly used in the meat processing industry and the production of final products.

Recent developments in the pig sector in Europe resulted in the drop of prices of pork meat. This will stimulate trade flow towards Serbia, putting additional pressure on local production and pig prices. (Prices of pork in Serbia can be found here.)

Approximate balance of pork meat
Category Unit 2018 2019 Prognosis: 2020
Gross domestic production tons 344 200 325 002 320 000
Import - Live animal tons 11 309 4 422 3 500
Export - Live animals tons 598 537 100
Net domestic production tons 344 911 328 887 323 400
Import of meat tons 56 090 66 017 25 000
Export of meat tons 19 688 18 041 1 000
Domestic consumption tons 381 313 376 863 347 400

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