Frequent outbreak of African swine fever has badly been affecting the prospects of pig production in the State.
The outbreak is causing direct and indirect loss to small, medium, large farmers, breeding units and entrepreneurs. Since there are no treatment protocol available against African Swine Fever, culling of pigs within one km radius of th infection is the only option for containment of disease. There is no vaccination available against the ASF.
“This year, Kerala has been worst affected by the African Swine Fever. It hit the State in two phases. During the first phase, outbreak occurred in Wayanad and Kannur districts and nearly 5,000 pigs were culled in the two districts. Currently outbreak has been reported in Thrissur, Kottayam and Idukki districts. Repeated outbreaks may affect the market potential of pork in the forthcoming Christmas-New year and marriage functions. It is estimated that as of now, pigs worth ₹170 crore had been culled in the country,” said T.P. Sethumadhavan, former Director of Entrepreneurship, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU).
In all, 1,340 pigs were culled in Thrissur district alone during the current episode of the ASF outbreak, says, Latha Menon, Chief Veterinary Officer, Thrissur.
Currently many panchayats in Thrissur district including Wadakkanchery, Avanur, Erumappetty, Desamangalam, Mundathikkode, Choondal, Kadangode, Chovvannur, Kaiparambu, Velur, Varavaur , Porkkulam, Kattakambal and Kadavallur panchayats are under surveillance.
“The disease usually spreads through fomites of infected animals. Unscientific transport, trade and unauthorised sale from affected areas may cause infection. Another possibility is through the feed. The farms collect food waste from hotels and flats. This may contain uncooked infected meat. We have been creating awareness among farmers right from the first incident in the district,” she added.
African Swine fever impact is very high on the value chain system. It is reported that prices of pork and pork products in Thrissur and Kottayam districts have reduced considerably. Demand for pork too has reduced.
How long this virus will sustain in the system is a real challenge, noted Dr. Sethumadhavan.
Even though transportation of pigs and products between the States were banned, pigs still have been transported within the state. Transporting vehicles and public are acting as carriers of infection. Moreover, the urge of farmers to dispose their available stock, precipitates the issue, he pointed out.
The African Swine fever is not a zoonotic disease, say experts. The World Health Organisation for animal health is in the process of conducting researches on vaccine production so as to control the infection worldwide.
“Maintaining scientific bio-security measures and keeping hygiene in farms are very important to check the infections like ASF. Disinfecting the farms and the transporting vehicles is very important. Otherwise, the frequent ASF episodes will hit the pork production, one of the viable enterprises due to its low input cost and high feed conversion ratio,” Dr. Menon noted.