Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Since the confirmation of the African  Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak in Gelephu Throm, Samtenling, and Dekiling gewogs on November 29, the Sarpang dzongkhag administration urged the public to refrain from importing pork and pork products into the dzongkhag.

In less than a month, the officials from the Incident Operation Centre (IOC) in Gelephu Thromde seized and disposed of 280kg of pork illegally imported from across the border in India. 

This means that the authorities collected a total of Nu 1.26M in fines from the defaulters. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) on December 15 instructed fines of ten times the market value of the seized pork products, Nu 450 per kg for violators. 

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs with a mortality rate of up to 100 percent. The disease is spread through contact between pigs (domestic and wild), contaminated pig products, feeding pigs with kitchen wastes contaminated with pork products, and movement of contaminated personnel and farm equipment. 

The outbreak in Sarpang was reportedly caused by the illegal import of contaminated pork and spread through kitchen wastes supplied by the hoteliers or restaurateurs to pig farms. 

The administration banned the slaughter of pigs, movements and sale of pig products until further notice. “Movement of all other livestock products originating from the integrated farms of Sarpang to other places are also restricted.”

“There are incidents of non-adherence to the notifications despite repeated awareness programmes and notifications issued by the authorities concerned,” stated the recent public notification from the dzongkhag administration. 

“We are inspecting hotels and restaurants and penalising illegal import and slaughtering of pigs in the dzongkhag,” said the incident commander of IOC, Dr Jambay. 

The pig farmers are asked to heighten biosecurity in their farms, stop feeding kitchen waste, prevent domestic pigs from coming into contact with wild pigs and report suspicious deaths to the nearest livestock centres or the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority. 

Although it doesn’t affect human health, ASF has catastrophic social and economic consequences for the pig-farming sector. 

The pig farmers in an earlier interview said that if the situation does not improve, the business would worsen and sustainability of their farms are uncertain. It has been only a month since the market for local pig products improved in the country. 

According to MoAF, the outbreak of ASF was reported from a backyard farm in Gayzor in Dewathang on November 21. A farmer from Pemathang was penalised for importing live pigs from Assam. 

The ban on import of live pigs and pork products into the country was in effect from July 27 this year. The ministry assured strengthened inspections at the borders.