August 3, 2023


Hurt by ASF, India's pork-producing sector holds promises

 

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While pork is not a preferred meat in India for religious reasons, there is demand for the meat in the country's northeastern states and metro cities.


Apart from operating through free-range management, India's pig farming has boomed as a semi-commercial industry that uses intensive farming methods.


The country has 9.06 million pigs, based on the 20th Livestock Census data. Its pig population grew significantly due to various breeding schemes that created awareness about the benefits of pig farming.


Key pig-producing Indian states are Assam, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Bihar, Karnataka and Mizoram.


Pig farming in Maharashtra, west India, is a developing industry. In 2018, a pilot project sought to train 100 farmers in the state in pig farming. This initiative provided a leg-up for Maharashtra's pig production as well as the development of scientific breeding methods and earning opportunities.


A total of 10 indigenous pigs have been recognised by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources. Farmers rear these pigs — which are smaller and well adapted to extreme weather conditions — without employing genetic selection.


Furthermore, with the support of government and non-governmental organisations, exotic breeds, like Hampshire, Yorkshire, Tamworth, Duroc and Landrace, have been imported to drive production performance.


Since 2008, the National Research Centre on Pig has been coordinating the "Mega-seed Project on Pig." This project aims to produce and supply quality swine germplasm to local farmers.


The National Livestock Mission scheme was also launched in the financial year 2014-15 to ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement in livestock production systems and capacity building of all stakeholders. It focuses on entrepreneurship development and breed improvement in poultry birds, sheep, goats and pigs.


How pigs are fed in India underscores the need for private industry players to modernise the sector. While commercial feed companies do sell feed to pig farmers, such products are actually used as supplements — while food waste is fed to pigs.

 

ASF throws India's pig production into turmoil

 

Pig production is considerably an unorganised sector in India and requires more science and technologies to achieve viable businesses in this industry. Additionally, declining resources — land availability and water access — and the emergence of new diseases are expected to inhibit the optimisation of pork production.


Diseases rocked India's pig production sector as African swine fever (ASF) struck the country in 2020. Outbreaks were reported in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast region, leading to the death of over 2,900 pigs.


In 2021, Mizoram reported the death of 33,000 pigs that were imported from Bangladesh. Last year, outbreaks were reported in Sikkim, Assam and Mizoram in the northeast and over 526 pigs died as a result. In response, India banned pig imports from Bangladesh and Myanmar.


Two segments of India's pork consumption


On a per capita basis, pork consumption in India is around 0.5-0.8kg (versus 4-5kg of chicken and fish).


The country's pork consumption can be divided into two segments: the vast majority of consumption concentrates on locally raised fresh pork meat. This meat is not widely distributed in the organised retail sector.


Given cultural and consumer perceptions of pork meat, the consumption of fresh, local pork is limited to northeastern India where pork consumption is more prevalent.


The other segment of the pork market entails high-value, imported products. These products include cured meats such as sausages, ham, bacon and canned meat products, as well as small quantities of frozen meat.


Those products are typically found in top Indian hotels that cater to international business travellers and tourists. There is also demand for imported pork products amongst more affluent local consumers and foreign residents in India.

 

- Dr. Dinesh Bhosale