Swine flu: Assam seeks pig supply curbs
The Assam government and pig farmers in the Northeast are unhappy with the Centre’s decision to transport pigs from Punjab and Haryana to the region where swine flu is raging.
Assam animal husbandry and veterinary minister Atul Bora has written to Union minister for animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries Giriraj Singh saying the ministry’s July 22 move was “poorly conceived” and a “recipe for disaster”.
Punjab and Haryana, lacking a market to consume the pork they produce, have been supplying pigs to the Northeast where pork is a staple for many. The piggery market of the northeastern states is worth Rs 7,500 crore annually and 1kg pork sells for Rs 300 here.
Seeking withdrawal of the move, Bora said Assam is now in the grip of floods as well as African swine fever (ASF), a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs, detected in Assam in April this year. According to the World Animal Health Organisation, it does not affect humans. Like the coronavirus, there is no vaccine for ASF, which was first detected in Kenya in 1907.
Strict restrictions have been imposed in Assam to contain ASF, which has so far affected 20,000 pig farmers in 422 villages across 14 districts, killing 17,118 pigs. The restrictions have affected movement and sale of pork in the state.
Bora conveyed to Singh that his department has planned to resume culling of diseased pigs and their burial from the first week of August, something not possible now because of the floods in 26 of the 33 districts, claiming 97 lives.
ASF has affected Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Biswanath, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Majuli, Golaghat, Nagaon, Kamrup (Metro), Morigaon, Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Sonitpur districts of Assam. Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh have banned entry of pigs from outside following the ASF outbreak in April.
Assam had on April 25 banned trade in pigs and pork and movement of people associated with pig rearing/farms. “Under the circumstances, any free movement of pigs from outside the state shall seriously undermine all steps taken to control the spread of ASF and also endanger areas outside the northeast,” Bora has said in his letter to Singh while requesting withdrawal of the decision.
The North East Progressive Pig Farmers’ Association (NEPPFA), which has over 1,000 members, is “shocked and annoyed with the Centre’s decision” because of the crippling impact of the ASF on the piggery sector of the region.
NEPPFA president Manoj Basumatary said allowing movement of pigs was fraught with danger as it will fan the spread of ASF and also Covid-19 (through drivers and staff).