Assam: African swine fever spreads; government orders culling of pigs
The Northeastern state of Assam has been hit by African swine fever (ASF), prompting the state government to order the culling of 12,000 pigs. The disease has a mortality rate of 90-100% and has killed as many as 18,000 pigs in the state, according to official figures. However, farmers' groups say the disease has killed roughly one lakh pigs, accusing the government of laxity.
What is African swine fever?
African swine fever is a severe viral disease that afflicts domestic and wild pigs. The fatal disease typically results in an acute hemorrhagic fever. ASF cannot be transmitted from animals to humans. Among pigs, it can be transmitted through contaminated feed and objects such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives. It does not have a vaccine, unlike the Classical Swine Fever.
Official figures claim 18,000 pigs have died
The first ASF case in Assam was reported in May. Notably, the state has India's highest pig population, 2.1 million, according to the 2019 livestock census. Since May, nearly 18,000 pigs have died, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary department Commissioner and Secretary Shyam Jagannathan said, according to Hindustan Times. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered the culling of 12,000 pigs.
33 outbreak epicenters in Assam
According to protocol, after a deceased pig tests positive for ASF, a one-kilometer radius is declared the disease epicenter, where all pigs are stamped and culled. Reportedly, there are 33 epicenters in the 13 districts of the state.
Centre, state to pay 50% each as compensation for culling
The central and state governments pay 50% each as compensation for the culling, Jagannathan said. "Compensation amount is based on the weight of the animal to be culled. We're planning to launch a portal where farmers can list details of affected pigs," he said, adding that the amount will be transferred directly to farmers' accounts before the culling. This process is yet to begin.
Pig farmers association says over one lakh have died
Opposing the government's claims, North East Progressive Pig Farmers Association President Manoj Basumatary told HT, "As per our estimates over one lakh pigs have died due to ASF, which is way higher than the government estimate of 18,000 deaths." Basumatary added, "We also do not know how they came up with the figure of 12,000 pigs to be culled."
'Disease hit 4-5 months ago; not a single culling happened'
Basumatary said, "The disease reached our state 4-5 months ago, but till date, not a single culling has been done and not a single rupee given as compensation." Neighboring states have also banned the import of pigs from Assam.
Pig farm owners face cash crunch
Meanwhile, Diganta Saikia of Dibrugarh's Pithubar Farms tweeted saying, "Our farm got hit by ASF virus and 95% of our stock i.e. 280 animals have died in the past month." Saikia said the sale of pork and transport of animals has been banned and they are facing a huge fund crunch. Other farm owners in Tinsukia, Lakhimpur, and Gohpur have also suffered losses.