It seems, the Manipur Veterinary & Animal Husbandry authorities always need a hard nudge or a shove to waken them from slumber to outbreak of disease among poultry and animal farms, which serves as one of the pillars of the state economy and employment generation among the youths.
Before the introduction of table meat in the state, the main poultry business was conducted at a site in the present temporary market just behind the shops lining BT Road and now it has gone further inside. The poultry traders were mainly Meitei Pangals with the occasional Meitei joining the melee with a few chicken and ducks, and the poultry items were of local variety.
It was a delight to watch the traders and customers haggle over the prices. Now, the price is fixed and one dearly misses the haggling. Well, the introduction of table meat was a boon to many youths who run poultry and piggery farms and the local traders who do brisk business. Every Leikai has Chicken Corners and Meat vendors with occasional fish outlets thrown in between. With a local hatchery and chicks coming from outside the state, many enterprising youth had begun poultry farming including even local eggs and earning money.
With local production of poultry picking up, the big business lobby holding monopoly over chicks, live chicken, eggs and feed have begun to feel the heat. The local endeavour has reached such a level now that, the state machinery should be extending a helping hand to the local entrepreneurs and which is so dearly missing.
To protect the upcoming business of these local entrepreneurs and to support them, one basic necessity is to have an early warning system for outbreak of diseases in neighbouring regions besides a quick response team permanently available.
We understand that, there are protocols to be strictly followed before declaring an outbreak and control measures to be taken up in the aftermath. But, one must also think of the uncertainty during the suspense period before the identification of a disease and its spread. Look at what happened in the last few days.
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The outbreak of fever among the pigs in several places in the valley had become talk of the town with prices of pork falling down from the usual Rs 360-380 per kg to Rs 180 per kg in meat houses across the valley while the state Veterinary and Animal Husbandry department still remain as if in a deep slumber.
Manipur Progressive Pig Farmers’ Association was the first to raise the alarm when it told the media that around 90 per cent of the pigs have died due to an unknown disease in five different valley districts of Manipur. When some media persons met the Director on October 12 regarding the deaths in the valley, he appeared nonchalant to the impending doom.
To anxious questions he responded by saying that samples have been collected from the infected pigs in Imphal West, Imphal East, Kakching and Ukhrul and sent to the Animal Health Centre, North Eastern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (NERDDL), Khanapara on October 11 late evening. And it has been more than a week before; the widespread deaths among pigs had started.
He said that it would be too early to guess or identify the disease infecting the pigs till the report is received. He also appealed to the pig farmers to consult district veterinary offices for preventive measures to stop the spread of the disease.
It was a bureaucratic response at best and not of a veterinary scientist heading the directorate. And then, on Friday, the Secretary of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry issued a notification that there is a confirmed report of the outbreak of ‘African Swine Fever (ASF)’ among the pigs of Central Agricultural University, Iroisemba, Manipur.