The outbreak of `lumpy skin disease’ in cattle in certain parts of Odisha has prompted China to issue a warning notification against imports of cattle and cattle products from India.

Exporters and trade experts, however, say that if the government takes enough timely steps to contain the disease within the affected districts, exports of cattle and cattle products to other destinations may not get hit.

“Steps need to be taken for containment of the disease as advised by the global body OIE. All precautions have to be taken to prevent its spread. But what needs to be highlighted is that the disease is only in cattle and no buffalo has been affected. Moreover, there is no meat plant or processing happening anywhere in the affected region or even adjoining States,” said Fauzan Alavi from the All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association.

On November 18, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying informed the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) on three recent cases of occurrence of `lumpy skin disease’ virus in cattle in Odisha reported in August. The first two cases were reported from Mayurbhanj, Odisha, while the third case was reported from Bhadrak, Odisha.

`Lumpy skin’ is an infectious disease in cattle which damages the hide and may result in chronic debility, reduced milk production, poor growth, infertility and sometimes death.

Following India’s notification to the OIE, China issued a warning notice against import of cattle or related products from India. “It is prohibited to import cattle and related products directly or indirectly from India (from unprocessed cattle or products that are processed but may spread the disease).... If any cattle and related products from India are found on the inbound ships, aircraft, road vehicles, railway trains and other means of transport, they shall be sealed up,” according to the warning notice issued by Chinese Customs department.

Although China does not officially import buffalo meat from India, a large quantity gets smuggled in through ports and roads by various agencies, which illegally import from both India and Brazil.

“The cattle and their related products illegally imported from India intercepted by the border guard and other departments shall be destroyed under the supervision of the customs,” it said.

“China has to follow OIE guidelines. The guidelines clearly lay down that once deboned and deglanded, meat exports are risk free. That is how Indian suppliers export meat. This is the norm that the world follows,” Alavi said.

To stop other countries, which import meat and cattle products from India, to not follow China’s example of stopping imports, the country needs to take immediate steps to check the spread of the disease to other parts and meat producing regions, cautioned Biswajit Dhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“The government has to put in place proper quarantine measures to ensure that the disease doesn’t get spread to major meat producing areas of the country. Proper labelling of exports should also be done to establish that the products were not from the affected region,” Dhar said.

India’s export of buffalo meat in 2018-19 was at $ 3.58 billion.


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