National Audit Office: Estonia’s biggest farms not meeting pollution reduction requirements

Toomas Mattson | 9/30/2009 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 30 September 2009 - An audit conducted by the National Audit Office has revealed that Estonia has failed to meet the objective set for the reduction of integrated pollution, according to which all of the major animal husbandry enterprises in the country were meant to have obtained an integrated environmental permit and to have adopted the best possible technology by the end of 2007. To date, only half of the animal husbandry enterprises in Estonia have managed to introduce the latest technology. Many companies are experiencing difficulties in fulfilling the requirements of the integrated permit, and some have yet to even apply for one.

Although the European Union only set the requirement for the use of the best possible technology on companies rearing poultry and pigs, it was decided to establish the same strict requirements on cattle and dairy farms in Estonia in order to reduce the amount of environmental pollution and the generation of waste. In other words, Estonia has introduced stricter requirements for obtaining a complex permit in cattle rearing than anywhere else in the European Union.

Given the fact that the actual condition of the majority of farms in the country is poor and that most producers are unable to make investments, and taking into consideration the support which is planned for agricultural workers, fulfilment of the deadlines as set was not realistic. Another reason for the problems that have arisen is the lack of cooperation between the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, as a result of which monitoring of the fulfilment of the obligations that had been adopted and the need to steer the investment support provided to animal husbandry enterprises towards the reduction of pollution did not receive sufficient attention.

Modernisation of cattle farming requires much more extensive investment than other types of animal husbandry – approximately 1.1 billion kroons. However, two years since the passing of the 2007 deadline, only half of this amount has been invested. It is the view of the National Audit Office that full implementation of the latest technology is unlikely to occur during this programme period, which will come to an end in 2013. Particularly poor is the situation in Lääne-Viru County, of whose 27 operating enterprises only six have obtained an integrated permit. The majority of those who have not are run-down farms whose economic and technological status has not enabled them to meet the requirements of the permit. Without an integrated permit these enterprises are not allowed to operate, and yet the state promotes breaches of the law by paying them a variety of agricultural benefits.

The National Audit Office would also like to draw attention to the fact that the Environmental Board has been offhand in its issuing of integrated environmental permits. Permits have been issued to enterprises which have not fulfilled or are not fulfilling key environmental requirements, as a result of which the actual state of the production sites may be worse than can be concluded from the fact that they obtained an integrated permit. The audit revealed that although the state had issued permits to 74% of animal husbandry enterprises, 66% of silos, 45% of fuel containers and 31% of manure storage facilities do not meet requirements. The main problems highlighted in responses to the questionnaire carried out among producers by the National Audit Office were leaking silos and manure storage facilities and run-down fuel containers, repairs to which keep being postponed.

The responses of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture appended to the audit confirm that the situation of cattle farms will be placed under more intensive control. An action plan is currently being developed by the Ministry of the Environment whose measures will contribute to boosting the quality of the work carried out in the field of integrated permits and to reducing the threat of pollution. The Ministry of Agriculture notes that it is only able to promote agriculture which meets requirements among producers through the implementation of voluntary support measures, wherein almost 2 billion kroons in support has already been allocated for the development of farming, and of which the majority has been invested in the introduction of the best possible technology.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900


Additional information

The deadline for the implementation of the Pollution Directive (96/61/EU, replaced by 2008/1/EU) and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Act for existing enterprises was 30.10.2007. By this time, all enterprises falling within the field of regulation of this act were meant to have adopted the best possible technology. At the time of the audit there were 157 such enterprises in Estonia, 116 of which had obtained an integrated permit and 12 of which had yet to even apply. Approximately 2.5 billion kroons will be needed in order to fulfil the requirements for the implementation of the latest technology in animal husbandry enterprises.

Statistical Office figures indicate that as of 31 March 2009 there were 239,000 head of cattle (including 100,000 dairy cows), 372,000 pigs, 101,000 sheep and goats and 1,762,000 head of poultry in Estonia. Approximately three-quarters of these were being kept by the country’s biggest farms.


  • Posted: 9/30/2009 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 8/28/2015 8:59 PM
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