Since the first report of the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak at Grihang village in Kamjong, Manipur in the first week of June this year and subsequent detection of the infection 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. Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Services Director Ng Ibotombi said that presently, four epicentres of the disease, namely Grihang in Kamjong, Hiyanglam in Kakching, Leimaram in Bishnupur and Sekmai in Imphal West have been identified and containment measures have been put into force. Besides, inter-district movement of pigs and pork products has been prohibited.
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The fever has spread to other areas of neighbouring Ukhrul district and even Senapati district. A piggery farm in Leimaram in Bishnupur district and Hiyanglam in Kakching district has also been declared as Controlled Area for ASF with immediate effect as positive cases of the disease were confirmed at the farm.
Cases of AFS have been reported in neighbouring Nagaland state’s seven districts, including Kohima and Dimapur district. The Manipur Progressive Piggery Farmers’ Association had earlier raised several questions regarding measures taken by the authorities concerned to prevent the spread of the infection and illegal livestock trade. Its general secretary Khundrakpam Malemnganba had also expressed concerns over whether the outbreak was linked with illegal trade of pig and pork products being reportedly carried out with neighbouring Myanmar.
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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.
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. 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.
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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. 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 is a pork vendor in many localities of the valley districts.
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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. Now, only Phayeng village remains unaffected. 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.
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