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Lockdown, disease hit State piggery sector hard

By Shambhu Boro

TEZPUR, May 1 - The ongoing lockdown has affected all sections of the society having a major impact on the socio-economic conditions among a cross-section of the society. However, farmers and labourers are the most affected sections. Among the farmers, the pig farmers of Assam are going through a lot of hardship and financial crisis. The lockdown has stopped sales and created a lot of shortage of feed as most of the commercial pig feeds come from outside. On top of this crisis, an outbreak of viral disease has thrown the piggery sector into total disarray and chaos.

While talking to this reporter, a pig entrepreneur from Tezpur and proprietor of �Symbiotic Pig Farm� located at Ghoramari area, Manoj Kumar Basumatary said that as per 20th livestock census of 2019, pig population of Assam has grown to 21 lakh from 16.36 lakh in 2012. Though the pig population of the country fell from 1.03 crore in 2012 to 90.6 lakh in 2019, Assam had a jump of 28 per cent becoming the top State in the country. �There are many factors including the involvement of many youths in this sector on a commercial basis,� Basumatary said adding thousands of youths have taken up piggery as self-employment generation activity thereby also creating jobs for others by opening commercial farms in their villages.

However, he said that the sector is today standing at the crossroads. �There have been reports of deaths of thousands of pigs in many parts of Assam due to Classical Swine Fever and other unknown disease. Many are suspecting it to be African Swine Fever, which has affected many countries in the world. Unlike Classical Swine Fever that can be prevented by vaccination, there is no vaccine for the African variant. The only way to protect the spread of this disease and minimise the damage is to contain the spread of the disease. To contain the disease, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, Assam has banned the movement of pigs and sale of pork in six districts namely Sivasagar, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Biswanath. Samples have been collected and sent to the laboratory of the ICAR-National Institute of High Security Animal Disease, Bhopal for final diagnosis,� he said

�Approximately, 15 lakh families are involved in pig rearing in Assam. It is a traditional activity for many tribal and other communities. One or two pigs reared annually work as an insurance as well as small savings for many rural women who are involved in this activity,� he said. The experienced pig farmer who has visited many piggery farms across the globe claims that Classical Swine fever or African Swine Fever causes no health threat to human beings. �Pork when cooked well kills any virus or bacteria present in it. So rumours about its danger to human health are unfounded,� he added.

Basumatary, who is also the president of North East Progressive Pig Farmers Association (NEPPFA), mentioned that the Veterinary department is also carrying out mass vaccination programmes for Classical Swine Fever in many districts. �The loses has been severe in many villages. Entire pig population in some villages in Dhemaji and Sivasagar districts have been wiped out. This is a huge setback for the upcoming sector in Assam. Many youths have got involved in the sector and we were thinking that the large number of youths who have returned from other States could have got absorbed in the piggery sector.� He opined that these youths can rebuild their farms only if they get financial support from the government.

Urging proper disposal of the dead animals, he urged the pig farmers to bury the dead animals properly in 6 feet deep pits and spray disinfectants over it. �I feel transportation of live animals should be banned across the State till we are able to contain the disease. Transportation of pigs creates more bio-security threat and increases the spread of disease to new areas,� he said.

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