African Swine Fever (AFS) Spreads to Fourth Highlands Province: Western Highlands

June 25, 2020 - 758 views

By - Lamech LAVARI

The African Swine Fever (ASF) is spreading rapidly in the Highlands region, this is according to the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority’s (NAQIA) managing director Joel Alu.

ASF has now been recorded in the Tambul-Nebilyer District of Western Highlands Province.

Early this year after initial investigations by (NAQIA) in the Southern Highlands, Hela and Enga Provinces confirmed the presence of the ASF, the minister for Agriculture and Livestock John Simon published a National Gazette that declared these provinces as Disease Areas.

“The reports I am getting shows that the disease is spreading really fast. Initially the disease was only in Mendi and some parts of Nipa but it has spread to the eastern part of Southern Highlands in Ialibu Pangia District, Kagua Erave and into Western Highlands in Tambul, into Enga in Kandep, and into Hela in Komo-Magarima, it is moving very fast,” Mr Alu said.

However, with confirmed cases in Western Highlands the Agriculture and Live Stock minister may have to include the province as a disease area too.

 “Hela, Southern Highlands and Enga Provinces are declared disease provinces but the ASF has spread into Western Highlands too and the minister might later amend the gazette and include Western Highlands when he gets a full report,” Mr Alu said.

PNG African Swine Fever National Response Taskforce On the 19th June 2020, the NAQIA announced a National Response Task Force Team to coordinate awareness on the ASF after about 3 months of awareness in the Highlands Region.

The comprises of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the USA (FAO), National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), Universoty of Goroka and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA Plus).

NAQIA’s Chief Vetenary Officer (CVO) Dr Ilagi Puana was appointed the taskforce’s controller. Number of Pig Deaths Unclear The NAQIA reportedly stated that about 700 pigs had died between November 2019 and February 2020.

Since then and with the disease being detected now in the Western Highlands NAQIA has not been able to provide a correct estimate of the number of dead pigs.

Chief Vetenary Officer (CVO) Dr Ilagi Puana said 2000 – 3000 pigs may have died since the outbreak late last year.

“ What is concerning is that there is a misguided belief from small holder farmers that NAQIA would compensate them for the loss of their pigs and therefore there has been some questionable reports of pig deaths” he said.

“In one area it was reported that 2600 pigs died but that is very hard to verify. There is a false idea that people think NAQIA will compensate them for the loss of their pigs. We don’t have money to do that,” Dr Puana said.

Dr Puana said such reports were brought to the attention of NAQIA field staff but they would need to be verified before any consideration.

Moreover, “in a worst case scenario the ideal way of doing disease control and eradication would be mass culling.

However it is bit difficult to do that with pigs especially in the Highlands, we may be faced with demands for compensation and we don’t have the funds for that. We are not considering that because it will be very expensive and also it is not practical.”

NAQIA Funding Constraints

On May 19th 2020 the NAQIA Managing Director Mr Joel Alu said in a press conference that the Authority made a budget submission to the National Executive Council (NEC) of K18 million to combat the spread of the ASF in the three disease declared provinces of Hela, Enga and Southern Highlands.

The NEC had approved the release of K2.3 million in April but at the time of the press conference no funds have been received by the Authority. It is not clear whether NAQIA has received any funding as yet.

 “We did a budget submission for K18 million to the NEC and it has been approved. K2.3 million was supposed to be released into our accounts in August but we have yet to receive it. The remainder of our budget has been earmarked for the 2021 budget according to our NEC approval,”

Mr Alu said He said without the release of the approved funding the authority was forced to use about K2 million from its operational budget toward ASF.

He said assistance from donor agencies have been providing relief to NAQIA’s efforts thus far.

 “If we don’t manage our biosecurity we will have issues on food security, that is the important message that our people and our political leaders must understand because it affects human lives, it affects our survival,” Mr Alu said.

Moreover, Mr Alu urged the Provincial Governments of the disease declared areas to contribute substantially towards NAQIA’s efforts.


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Mike, 3 weeks ago
Dangerous situation