This is expected to help the country achieve sufficiency in pork which has been rising over the years
Livestock: The failing piggery industry has become an increasing burden on the country’s economy and pork self-sufficiency in the past four years.
Bhutan imported pork worth Nu 326.57 million last year, a 31 percent increase from 2012.
From 1,842 metric tonnes (MT) in 2012, the import of pork rose to 2,240MT last year. Domestic production fluctuated in the past four years.
The country produced 462MT of pork last year, compared to 388MT in 2014, and 485MT in 2013.
Domestic production struggled with inadequate supply of piglets triggering huge imports annually.
However, the situation is expected to improve in the next few years with the arrival of 150 pigs that were imported on July 18. The pigs arrived on a chartered flight.
The pigs have been imported from Thailand, from a leading supplier of swine genetics and live hogs. The pigs, that are termed great grand parents (GGP), will be reared at Yusipang, Thimphu.
The imported pigs will be used to breed grand parents (GP) and the parent stock. The parent stock will be distributed to the farmers and commercial piggery farms.
GGP is a pure line of breed and their offspring fatten quicker, breed more, and grow larger than normal pigs. The sows breed every six months, livestock officials said.
Department of Livestock director general, Dr Tashi Samdrup said: “Expected increase of pork demand in the country calls for enhancement of domestic production to attain self–sufficiency, which is the primary goal of the 11th Plan.”
The government has a target of producing 1,000 metric tonnes of pork a year by 2018. For this, about 12,500 piglets have to be produced annually.
Dr Tashi Samdrup said that this would meet the demand for quality pork and also address the food safety concerns of the government. This is intended to reduce the outflow of Indian rupee and reduce the import of pork.
“In the long run it is perceived to attain self-sufficiency in pork production,” Dr Tashi Samdrup said.
The department has three pig breeding farms in Gelephu, Yusipang, and Lingmethang, Mongar with a total piglet breeding capacity of 4,000 piglets annually against the demand of about 9,000 piglets annually.
The three farms together at present meet only 30 percent of the demand creating a vacuum of almost 5,000 piglets every year.
From about 7,000 piglets in 2013, the demand last year shot to 9,000 piglets this year.
“Therefore, the growth of piggery industry in the country is hindered due to shortage of piglets,” Dr Tashi Samdrup said.
The growing period of the new breed is about a year after which mating will begin and the piglets will be distributed to the Lingmethang and Gelephu farms.
The new breed will produce about 13 to 14 piglets but one to two piglets die despite proper care.
Of the 150 GGP pigs, each weighed 30 kilogrammes and cost Nu 60,000. Unlike GGP, the parent stock or third generation needs to be replaced every three years because they will not be able to produce pure breed pigs. Livestock officials said that if the pigs are left to breed continously, it would lead to inbreeding and this would lead to not only low piglet production but also poor quality.
Livestock officials said this is what is happening in the breeding farms in the country and as a result it has lead to inadequate supply of piglets against mounting demand.
The stock of GGP Landrace and Large-White will be able to produce replacements for GGP and GP herds, meaning the country need not import the pigs for more than five years.
Bhutan first imported 82 grand parent pigs from the United Kingdom in 2003. The present parent stock piglet at the piggery farms is the seventh generation of the three imported breeds – Sattlepack, Large Black and Duroc.
Given the small population, inbreeding occurred resulting in a high mortality rate of piglets.
The National Piggery Development Centre also promotes a contract piglet breeder programme where farmers sell piglets to the farms for Nu 3,500 each.
Bhutan is the first country in the SAARC region to breed GGP sows, livestock officials said.