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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Amid African Swine Fever outbreak, Assam opposes Centre’s nod to transport pigs to Northeast

The first ASF outbreak — a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute hemorrhagic fever —was reported in September 2019 in China. The disease hit Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in April this year.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati | Updated: July 26, 2020 8:53:48 am
Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh

Assam has opposed the Centre’s recent decision to transport pigs from North India to the Northeast, after the porcine industry in the state suffered major losses due to the Covid-19 lockdown, which was closely followed by an outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) that has killed more than 17,000 pigs.

On Wednesday, a Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries order had said that the government had decided to “allow movement of pigs from states of Haryana and Punjab to the north-eastern states.”

Assam Agriculture and Animal Husbandry minister Atul Bora on Thursday wrote to Union Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Giriraj Singh, requesting him to withdraw the order, describing the decision as “poorly conceived”.

“Presently in Assam, we have taken steps to extensively educate the farmers on the focus for containment of African Swine Fever and have taken harsh measures to prevent sale of pork, transportation of pigs to ensure that there is no further spread of the disease,” he wrote.

Bora said the recent order was “a recipe for disaster to only allow for quicker dissemination of the virus”. “Any free movement of pigs from outside the state shall seriously undermine all steps taken to control the spread and also endanger the spread to areas outside the north-eastern states,” he wrote.

Bora also stated that with Assam currently facing floods, the culling operations of the infected pigs has been delayed.

The first ASF outbreak — a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs — was reported in September 2019 in China. The disease hit the Northeast this year, killing 17,118 pigs in 422 villages in Assam and 4,553 pigs in Arunachal Pradesh.

The outbreak led both states to ban the slaughter and sale of pigs, and adopt biosecurity measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Manoj Basumatary, the president of the North East Progressive Pig Farmers’ Association (NEPPFA), said, “When the disease broke out for the first time in our state, we extended full support to the government — we followed all their guidelines, we stopped selling pigs even if it meant it would be huge losses for us. Many of these restrictions are still in place. Now, just as we are trying to recover losses, they have said they will transport pigs from North India. It is not a level playing field.”

Meanwhile, while Arunachal Pradesh is yet to put out an official statement on the matter, it too feels that it is “not the right time to import pigs,” according to the Joint Director of the state Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department, Dr Tachi Taku.

“We have issued a blanket ban on transport of pigs within the state, so how can we bring in new pigs from the Northern states at this time?” Taku asked, adding that it was a decision that would hurt the prospect of local farmers too.

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