Business Standard

Surinder Sud: The foot-and-mouth scourge

India is struggling to eradicate this highly contagious virus

Related News

After the of dreaded livestock ailments like rinderpest and contagious bovine pleura-pneumonia, the focus now is on stamping out another equally perilous malaise called foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The has identified this disease as the most important constraint on international trade in animal products.

Memories of Britain’s economic deprivation caused by the outbreak in 2001 are still fresh. It took a toll on over 10 million farm animals and controlling the virus cost around $4 billion. The country faced a six-month ban on the export of all livestock products and its tourism industry was completely paralysed. The food and agriculture sector suffered direct and indirect losses of around $5 billion.

India’s that has now emerged as the largest contributor to the country’s agricultural gross domestic product, or GDP, is highly vulnerable to this disease, which has been endemic in most parts for over 100 years. Conservative estimates put annual losses owing to FMD at over Rs 20,000 crore. Besides lowering the production of milk and other animal products, FMD causes indirect losses by debilitating draught animals, depriving farmers of vital draught power needed for farm operations and transportation.

FMD is a highly-contagious viral disease that affects almost all cloven-hoofed animals (those with hoofs split into two), including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, camels and wild animals like antelopes, neelgai (blue bull) and so on. Animals afflicted with this disease develop blisters in the mouth cavity as well as at the parting of the hoofs together with high fever. Pregnant cows may abort as a result of this infection, while young calves may die if not treated in time. Many animals become permanently lame, turning unfit for farm work. The milk of affected animals, besides being reduced in quantity, is rendered unusable.

India has a FMD-susceptible animal population of around 600 million, including around 200 million cattle, 105 million buffaloes, over 140 million goats, nearly 732 million sheep and over 11 million swine, besides a large number of mithun, yak, camels and so on. Moreover, widespread distribution and unrestricted movement of animals make the task of eliminating FMD all the more difficult. Yet, it is creditable for the country’s FMD eradication programme to have brought this disease under control in northern states, notably Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. And it is inching closer to doing so in the southern peninsula comprising Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry.

The animal husbandry wing of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) feels that by 2018, northern states can hope to be free of this malaise and the southern peninsula will move a step closer to achieving that status. “It is hoped that by 2025, this disease will be under control in most part of the country,” animal scientists maintain.

However, as of today, outbreaks of FMD are still reported from some parts, notably the north-east, though the number of cases is steadily declining. The main worry is about its persistence in north-eastern states like Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh that share borders with countries like China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan from where the infection can come owing to trans-boundary animal movement.

Some countries, including the UK and the US, have managed to wipe out FMD by slaughtering all the affected and at-risk animal populations. India cannot do so given the critical reliance of the landless and small farmers on livestock for subsistence and the social bar on killing cattle in several states. It, therefore, has to rely on regular vaccination of animals to keep the infection under check, even as this method involves huge costs and a massive effort. A countrywide network of 15 field units and eight regional centres has been created by ICAR to undertake surveillance and control of FMD.

Besides, the government is helping state animal husbandry departments to control FMD. The much-needed research and vaccination development support is being provided by ICAR’s laboratory at Mukteshwar near Nainital. This strategy is paying off and can be emulated elsewhere in South Asia as well to get rid of this scourge.


surinder.sud@gmail.com  

Read more on:   
|
|
|
|
|
|

Read More

Akash Prakash: A Budget for savings?

Instead of being a high-savings economy, India sees people exiting the financial markets

Advertisements

Most Popular Columns

Rahul Jacob

Rahul Jacob: How Mr Modi has outplayed the media
Rahul Jacob

From a ruling party's perspective, the BJP is in a sweet spot; editorial independence and analytical coverage of governance is rapidly declining

Abheek Barua

Abheek Barua: The right questions
Abheek Barua

A response to the 28 economists defending the employment guarantee scheme

Sreenivasan Jain

Sreenivasan Jain: Is Swachh Bharat repeating mistakes of the past?
Sreenivasan Jain

India's proposed toilet revolution is all set to repeat mistakes of the past

Advertisement

Columnists

T N Ninan

T N Ninan: The audacity of hope?
T N Ninan

First, the country has only 2.6 Gw of solar capacity installed as of now, and the plan has been to take it up to 20 Gw by 2020 (revised later to ...

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan: The two phases of Nehru
T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan

Historians ought to examine the pre-1947 Nehru independently of the post-1947 one

Sunanda K Datta-Ray

Sunanda K Datta-Ray: Black money and black holes
Sunanda K Datta-Ray

Instead of chasing chimeras or politically motivated witch-hunts, we need to focus on the phenomenon of black money. The point is not how it is ...

Back to Top