NE farmers up in arms against decision to allow US pork imports

KOLKATA, 14 Jan: Pig farmers across the Northeast are up in arms over the union government’s decision to allow import of US pork, contending it could destroy livelihoods of lakhs of people and deal a body blow to a success story from the region.

Pig farmers in the Northeast, which consumes about 70 percent of the country’s pork production fear an uneven playing field and disruption to businesses once cheaper factory-scale US pork products are shipped into the country.

United States trade representative Katherine Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had recently announced that India is set to import pork and pork products for the first time, removing a longstanding barrier to US agricultural trade.

“We will oppose this move tooth and nail, as it will hamper the livelihood of lakhs and sound the death knell for a growing sector,” the North East Progressive Pig Farmers’ Association (NEPPFA), which has over 1,000 members in its fold, said.

NEPPFA president Monoj Kumar Basumatary said the region accounts for almost 40 percent of the country’s pig population, and produces nearly 1.3 lakh metric tonnes of pork annually.

It has to be kept in mind that the genetics and rearing process of US pigs are completely different. Allowing import of its pork products will not present a level playing field for us, said Basumatary.

“The central government should have instead focused on improving breeding and the quality of feed for pigs, and boosting credit availability for farmers back home,” Basumatary told PTI.

The Assam-based pig farmer said the decision will lead to more losses for small and commercial farmers who have been smarting under the detrimental impact of Covid lockdowns and the outbreak of the African swine fever.

Assam rears 2.1 million pigs out of India’s 9.06 million, according to the 2019 livestock census. Other Northeast states with sizable pig populations include Meghalaya and Nagaland. India also exports processed poultry products to a number of South East Asian destinations.

The pork deal is part of the revived US-India Trade Policy Forum held in New Delhi in November last year, where the two countries agreed to expand trade of some agricultural products, including US cherries, alfalfa as well as Indian mangoes, grapes, shrimp and water buffalo meat.

The US was the world’s third-largest pork producer and second-largest exporter in 2020, with global sales of pork and pork products valued at $ 7.7 billion. In the 2021 fiscal, it exported over $ 1.6 billion of agricultural products to India. (PTI)