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Permanent Commission For Livestock Sector Proposed: Raja Rafaqat

Bird flu never existed in pakistan; who overreaction to spread of disease in far east caused local crisis; national veterinay laboratory will help boost export

Federal Government plans to set up a permanent commission for livestock sector entrusted with the assignment of constant monitoring of the situation in this area and reacting immediately in case of an emergency or crisis. Dr. Raja Rafaqat Hussain told that a summary, in this regard, is being prepared for approval. It is hoped it will help avert situations like created by recent crisis in poultry industry, he added.


Dr.Raja Rafaqat Hussain Animal Husbandry Commissioner, MINFAL.
 

Azhar Zaman
Resident Editor (Islamabad) for Weekly Veterinary News & Views, Pakissan .Com And Saarc Development Features Service (SDFS)

 

However, he categorically made it clear that the disease of Bird Flu never existed in Pakistan and in the previous crisis, poultry industry suffered not due to Bird Flu as it was non-existent but because the misinformation worked and the customers bought the defective information and stopped buying the product.

 Narrating the background of the poultry crisis Raja Rafaqat told, ďThe story begins with the onset of Bird Flu disease in chickens in Far Eastern countries. Bird Flu is dangerous for human life as strains of this virus has the potential to transfer to human body.

Other viruses in chicken may be fatal and incur loss to industry but they donít pose threat to human life. Right at that time, avian influenza spread in chickens in Pakistan that is a very common winter disease and it canít transfer to human body and so is no threat to human life. In Far East, migratory bird caused wide spread of Bird Flu in those countries.

Pakistan didnít have threat from migratory birds as our visitors came from Siberia in winter in search of water where Bid Flu didnít exist. Now comes the role of World Health Organization (WHO) which naturally had great concern about the spread of Bird Flu. It rightly feared that ordinary bird virus could mix with human virus in pigs and produce a new strain that could be threat to human life.

So, in order to avoid such situation it launched a campaign of awareness in good faith and issued warnings and precautions especially for poultry workers and dealers to handle birds with all hygienic measures. These precautions are required to be observed even in normal times.

Perhaps WHO nervously overreacted in good faith in the wake of growing threat from Far East and its subsequent overplaying in media created an Ďartificial crisisí that incurred heavy losses to poultry industry.

Actually Bird Flu with potential for threat to human life neither exited before nor today but we experienced a crisis just due to misinformation. However, we hope that in future we will be able to deal such situations more scientifically in the presence of proposed commission.Ē

 

Raja Rafaqat further stated that Government took various measures to help reestablish poultry industry following this crisis. The proposal of providing compensation to the farmers was not feasible that was opposed even by the farmers themselves as it was very difficult to assess the actual losses of individual farmers.

However, farmers were given relief in the form of rescheduling of loans, offering easy terms for new loans and revising duty structure. Government is working closely with poultry farmersí associations to help survive this industry.

In reply to a question, Animal Husbandry Commissioner observed satisfaction that Federal Livestock Division is working in close harmony with its provincial counterparts. In fact, Federal Division coordinates with international agencies and provincial governments and it provides guidelines to provinces whereas provinces play the operational role.

However, in various workshops, seminars and meetings, it has observed that provincial and district governments lack proper coordination and even within district some confusion seems to exist between Tehsil and district administration.

For example, district administration operates slaughter houses and is responsible for setting up animal markets but Tehsil administration operates and controls regular animal marketing events. But despite such minor conflicts, overall livestock sector situation remains normal and smooth.

Commenting on allocation of 403 million rupees for livestock sector in current federal budget, Raja Rafaqat observed this amount, combined with foreign assistance, is quite sufficient keeping our absorption capacity in view.

Strengthening of Livestock Services Project began in September 2003 with major foreign funding aims at realizing the potential of livestock sector by improvement of farmersí livelihood through better provision of livestock services, especially of disease control, and through enhancing productivity.

In the first phase, we are busy in setting up framework and after this we will concentrate on the operational part of the project, he added. The livestock losses due to various diseases are one of our major concerns as it hampers the development process.

With a disease control project started in 1998, we have succeeded in rooting out Rinderpest and World Animal Health Organization (WAHO) has declared Pakistan free of this disease.

The threat of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is still continuing and we hope that at the completion of new project after 6 years we will be able to bring disease losses in livestock down to 30-40%.

Raja Rafaqat told that Public Accounts Committee observed a slow but gradual progress in livestock sector as compared to erratic response in other areas of agriculture. We intend to further improve the pace of progress in livestock sector.

To fulfill WTO requirements for quality control of export of our livestock products, we have completed National Veterinary laboratory in Islamabad that is now functioning. Export products certification by the laboratory will help in boosting export earnings.

Raising livestock has been a way of life since old times in Indus Basin and has always been basic or additional source of income for farmers. There are abundant grazing areas in all parts of country that promise growth of livestock and income resource for farmers. Though drought in Cholistan retarded this growth, we look forward to better water resources, larger grazing areas and improved awareness in farmers to control diseases, he observed.

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