The Assam government has temporarily banned the import of pigs and poultry from other states to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) and avian influenza (bird flu) and protect local piggery and poultry farming.
This ban is likely to affect other northeastern states, including Meghalaya as the integrated check post at Srirampur in Kokrajhar will deny entry of vehicles carrying poultry and pigs with immediate effect.
The bird flu (H5N1) outbreak has been reported in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi barely a week after the disease in Bokaro district led to the culling of 4,000 chickens and ducks. Reports of dead birds have been reported from different places in Bihar in the last month.
Similarly, the ASF outbreak has been reported from Punjab and Haryana and some other states forcing the state government to ban the transportation of pigs from other states.
“After the outbreak was reported in Bihar and Jharkhand, the state government has imposed a temporary ban on the entry of poultry as a precautionary measure through the western border of the state. The formal order was issued yesterday. It will take some time for effective implementation. We are seeking help from the state home department for effective implementation,” Assam veterinary minister Atul Bora said addressing a press conference on March 11.
“Till now no case of bird flu has so far been reported from any part of the state. H5N1 is a highly contagious avian disease having a zoonotic potential of causing a huge loss in terms of mortality and trade of poultry. We have done it to protect our local poultry so that our farmers will not be affected. But we are not banning poultry trade within the state.
“We are coming out with a standard operating procedure (SOP) soon for the effective ban of outside poultry in the state in consultation with the home department,” the minister said.
The deputy commissioners of the districts in the western border have been directed not to allow entry of vehicles carrying poultry into the state till further notification.
“Assam needs daily 750 tonnes of chicken, and the state’s own production is more than 800 tonnes. The state is becoming self-sufficient in chicken production,” said Pankaj Lal Gogoi, president, Poultry Federation of Assam (PFA).
“However, poultry farmers from North Bengal dump inferior quality chicken to Assam, which is a matter of concern for all of us. There will be a surplus production of chicken in the state and many women self-help groups (SHGs) are initiating poultry production in different parts of the state.
“The state government has also banned the import of pig from other states of the country as ASF cases are rising in the states like Punjab and Haryana. However, no ASF case has been reported in any part of the state so far.
“We have done this to protect our pigs from the outbreak. In the last year, we have had to cull many pigs in different parts of the state causing heavy losses to the pig farmers,” he also said.
Justifying the pig ban, North East Progressive Pig Farmers Association (NEPPFA) president Manoj Kumar Basumatary said the transportation of pigs was banned under the provision of the Prevention of Animal Disease Act, 2009.
“If it is not banned, the spine of the rural economy will be crushed. Pig farmers will have to suffer a heavy loss due to this disease,” Basumatary said.
“The demand for pork in North East is 3 lakh metric ton per year, while Assam produces only 1.30 lakh to 1.40 lakh MT per year. Pigs worth Rs 4,000 crore have to be imported from other states, including Punjab and Haryana every year. The demand for pork is high in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram,” Basumatary also said.
“Our pig farmers can’t compete with the farmers of Punjab and Haryana because we have to depend on maize to feed the pigs. But the farmers of Punjab and Haryana depend on waste food of the cities and towns.
“Our rearing cost is also higher than theirs. Their pigs are better and healthy than our pigs, But I don’t know the health-related issues,” he added.