Even as Manipur grapples with dengue fever leading to the death of quite a few individuals, another fever outbreak has spread among the pigs in several places in the valley and the state Veterinary and Animal Husbandry department is yet to wake up to the problem. Alarm bells were raised when the price of pork meat fell from the usual Rs 360-380 per kg to even Rs 180 per kg in meat houses across the valley. Luckily, instead of rushing to the meat-shops young people are staying away from it although there are few reports of the fever passing on to humans.
For quite some time, the market in Imphal has been captured by pigs imported from Myanmar as pork vendors get more profit by selling it instead of the local variety and the state Veterinary department has been turning a blind eye to the same. Now, after the ethnic clashes, pigs from Myanmar have stopped coming. For years, the large-scale supply of pigs in the hills and the valley has been from the pig farmers in the valley, especially from the Loi villages including Sekmai and Phayeng.
In recent times, Kakching also became a main supplier of pigs. But, the market was overturned by the cheap Myanmar pigs, in the last few years. And, the state Veterinary department cannot claim innocence regarding this new import, as they have an office in Moreh with the avowed objective of screening poultry and meat imported from Myanmar side. The state Veterinary department was supposed to be on extreme alert for any outbreak of swine flu and measures put in for checking the pigs of Myanmar import and pigs in our farms, which they declined to do.
Even as fish is the staple diet of most people in the valley districts, beef and pork is an essential item for most families in the hills and one has to respect that. Since the introduction of broiler chicken, pork has also become a favourite meat among the youth in the valley also. That is why, there are pork vendors in many localities of the valley districts. And many prefer pork meat from the Loi villages of Sekmai, Phayeng and some others as they contain more fat.
Rearing pigs is a side industry in most Loi villages as they are fed the fermented rice used in distillation of local Yu otherwise known as ‘Yupang’. It is said pigs grow faster as they sleep most of the time after consuming Yupang. Even as the state government grapples with protests from prohibition groups, every stakeholder needs to consider the economic prospects of exporting local liquor and associated industries like pork production.
Earlier also, mass deaths of pigs and piglets in certain parts of the valley owing to symptoms of fever suspected to be swine flu had been reported with concerns having been raised by pig farmers to initiate immediate action from the Veterinary department.
It was sometime in July, 2022 that African Swine Fever (ASF) was first reported in some places in Ukhrul and Kamjong bordering Myanmar. Subsequently, it was detected in other districts including the valley, pork business had been hurt and many self-employed youths selling pork in different localities have closed shop.
Experts say, humans are safe from the infection, containment measures and reluctance shown by the public towards consumption of infected pork is affecting the once thriving business. It led to prohibition of inter-district movement of pigs and pork products. The fever has spread to other areas, more particularly in the Kakching region. The villages of Langmeidong, Thounaojam, Yangdong and Elangkhangpokpi were most affected. So, it is time for the concerned department to wake up to the problem and deal with it.