For representational purposes
For representational purposes

African swine fever set to deal Kerala’s pig farms a killer blow

949 pigs culled so far; cannot rule out chances of flu spreading to more parts, say experts

KOZHIKODE: The pig farming sector in the state is facing its biggest crisis following the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (AWF) which was reported in Wayanad and Kannur districts. With the infection scare making headlines, over 7,000 farmers rearing 1.5 lakh pigs eying Onam market are facing a serious crisis.
Further, livestock experts said they could not rule out chances of the infection spreading to more parts of the state. They cited the situation in north-eastern states — which are reeling under the threat of the disease which claimed the lives of almost 80% of domestic pigs.

So far, the virus infection has been reported in four farms in Wayanad and Kannur districts and around 949 pigs have been culled as part of containment measures. The infection scare is continuing with pigs in three more farms — one in Kannur and two in Wayanad — dying owing to suspected swine fever authorities are awaiting the results of the samples sent for testing in National Institute for High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal. Dr Bipin K C of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University said the current outbreak of African swine fever is likely to affect the population of both domestic and wild pigs. Presently, there is no vaccine for the disease and prevention is the only way to prevent the outbreak.

“However, when compared to north-eastern states, chances of virus spread is much low in Kerala considering the density of pig farms. But, we have to take two matters in Kerala into account. One is that chances of the virus spreading to wild pigs is much high as cases were reported in farms located close to forest areas. Mostly, the virus has already spread to wild pigs. If it has happened, the virus will return to domestic pigs even after culling all infected domestic pigs. If there was any delay in confirming the virus infection, many infected pigs might have been transported to other areas of the state. This might have led to the spread of infection. In such cases, we have to wait for three or four months to see the exact intensity of the virus spread. Hence, strict restrictions on pig and pig products should be imposed,” he said.

Kerala Livestock Farmers’ Association state vice-president K S Raveendran said though the government has not imposed a ban on trade of pigs, piglets, and pork products as part of containment measures across the state, consumption of pork has dipped by 90 per cent across the state. “In Wayanad alone, there are over 36 pork stalls. But, 75% of the shops have already stopped selling pork. The situation is similar in all 14 districts,” he added.

According to data available with the livestock farmers’ association, there are over 7,000 farmers across the state engaged in pig farming and they have over 1.5 lakh pigs which are ready for sale. But, most of the farmers could not sell even a single animal due to the virus outbreak. “Karkidaka Vavu was one of the best occasions for pig farmers to get a better price and over 50% of animals should have been sold during the period. But, this time year, farmers failed to find markets for their grown-up pigs”, he said.Normally a pig will gather 100 to 130kg within 10 months and it is the best time for selling the animal. The government should procure pigs from farmers and this is the only way to save them, he said.

CONSUMPTION DIPS
Though the government has not imposed a ban on trade of pigs, piglets, and pork products as part of containment measures, consumption of pork has dipped by 90% across the state. In Wayanad alone, there are over 36 pork stalls. But, 75% of the shops have already stopped selling pork, said Kerala Livestock Farmers’ Association state vice-president K S Raveendran

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