Halt pig, pork imports to prevent swine fever

The Myanmar Pig Breeders and Producers Association has asked the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation to suspend the imports of live pigs and pork products due to the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in neighboring countries.

Currently, legal and illegal imports of pigs and pork products occur in border areas of the country and the association is asking the authorities to call a temporary halt on the trade to firstly curb the potential spread of ASF, and to reduce illegal trading, said U Maung Maung Lay, vice chair of the association.

“We are asking the authorities to temporarily suspend transport and trading of pigs, pork products and frozen meat for a year. The outbreak of ASF is has not been widespread in Myanmar but is a problem in neigbouring countries and we are worried that there could be an outbreak of the disease here. There is no vaccine or resistance to the disease so we need to wait for the outbreak to run its course,” U Maung Maung Lay said.

“If the local demand for pork is high, we can allow some imports by air provided the shipments have documentation to show they are disease-free,” he added.

The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department released a warning about the disease in February.

“As the current situation could escalate for local breeders, I have made the report. If the situation becomes anything like in neighboring countries, we should be very worried,” said Myanmar Pig Breeders and Producers Association Association Secretary U Aung Soe Min Kyaw.

Currently, the farm price of pork is K5,500 per viss (1.63 kilogrammes) while the retail price is over K10,000.

Pig breeders in Myanmar are mainly centred around Bago, Yangon, and Pathein and so far have not been affected by the disease. African Swine Fever poses no danger to people, but its effects on pigs can be devastating, with mortality rates of up to 100 percent.

“The fever is an obstacle for food safety and livestock businesses with the potential to damage professions and international trade, said Agricultural, Livestock and Irrigation Minister U Aung Thu during a talk on prevention of the disease on on October 3.

“The virus can live for months in meat and other products and is highly contagious. As there are also no vaccines, the World Organization for Animal Health classifies it as a cross-border contagious animal disease that needs emergency prevention. Currently, a foreign company is interested to run a pig-breeding facility in Myanmar and has proposed to use 3000 hectares of land for the project. An outbreak of swine fever would pose a major blow for such a project,” said Agriculture, Livestock and Aquaculture Development Committee Member U Hla San.

To prevent animal diseases, livestock breeders need to adopt modern methods and hygiene standards, U Hla San said.

“I attended a talk on African Swine Fever held by a firm in early October, and more meetings are to be held with the Myanmar Investment Commission. Local SMEs also have to pay attention to the issue,” he added.

Speaking on another matter, U Hla San said, while he welcomes foreign investment, he us afraid local breeders might be disadvantaged.

“It might be better if a foreign company invests money and technology to help local breeders, creating a win-win situation rather than driving small local breeders out of business,” he said.

“If big businesses enter, small ones will disappear. Rural breeders don’t have much capital and previously suffered heavy losses during and outbreak of blue eye disease among their herds last year,” said U Maung Maung Lay.

African Swine Fever was reported in several animals in Shan State, but so far hasn’t spread to other parts of Myanmar. Outbreaks of ASF have been occurring in countries like China, Vietnam and Mongolia, and has led to the culling of millions of animals in an effort to halt the spread of the disease.

According to an animal census conducted in Myanmar early this year, there are 5.8 million pigs in the country.

Source: Myanmar Times

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