PESHAWAR: Even when Pakistan loses substantially due to the bans on export of meat and dairy products over the foot-and-mouth disease fears, the country’s abysmal capacity to eliminate the animal disease through vaccination can be judged from the case of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where less than 10 per cent of its total livestock gets vaccinated annually.
A small facility at the FMD Research Centre of the Veterinary Research Institute, Peshawar, has the capacity to produce around 1.8 million doses of FMD vaccine annually against the estimated annual demand of 30 million doses for the total cattle population in the province to contain the disease.
“We can produce roughly 150,000 doses of FMD vaccines at this centre per month,” an official said, adding that the remaining cattle might not get vaccinated for the disease or the farmers purchase imported vaccines from the market.
He said majority of the farmers could not afford to purchase the expensive imported vaccines.
The official insisted that the private sector was discouraging the production of FMD vaccines in the public sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces.
Peshawar facility produces 1.8m doses of foot-and-mouth vaccine annually against 30m needed by province
“The private sector does not want the production of vaccines in the public sector,” he said, adding that they had proposed to the provincial government to increase the capacity of the FMD Research Centre to start the manufacturing of vaccines instead of importing them.
The centre in Peshawar is producing six types of vaccines.
The FMD is the most common contagious disease of livestock in Pakistan, which causes two kinds of losses to the country. Firstly, the disease results in the production losses of milk and meat as well as animal mortality, and secondly, being a trans-boundary disease, the country faces restrictions on the export of livestock and its value-added products.
Though things on foot-and-mouth disease in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are bad, the situation in rest of the country does not inspire confidence either.
The disease poses threat to 194.8 million cattle, buffalos, sheep and goats in the country, including 85 million in Punjab. The government did not conduct fresh population census of livestock, so the figures were based on inter-census growth rate of livestock census 1996 and 2006, according to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2018-19.
Dr Riasat Waseeullah, assistant commissioner (animal husbandry), Islamabad, told Dawn that the government’s contribution to the livestock vaccination was very nominal and that farmers were vaccinating animals on their own.
He said Punjab produced around six million FMD vaccines annually and vaccines were imported from different countries that were very expensive.
“Five to 10 per cent of the total livestock population gets vaccinated in the country,” he said.
Officials said Pakistan imported billions of rupees of FMD vaccines every year.
An official said Punjab alone had imported Rs2.7 billion FMD vaccines from 2016-17 to 2017-18.
Currently, the FMD vaccines are imported from Russia, UK, France and other countries.
The federal government in collaboration with the provinces is working out a multibillion rupees plan for establishing FMD free zones and developing a disease information and surveillance system to eradicate the disease from the country.
The estimated cost of the plan is Rs14.55 billion, which was shared with the provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan last week.
An official, who represented the province in the meeting, told Dawn that the FMD vaccines worth Rs9 billion would be imported under the project.
He said under the plans, the zoning strategy would particularly help with the progressive control of the targeted animal diseases such as FMD, which was a prerequisite to have an access to the high-end markets like EU, US and China.
The official said the provinces had reservations about the import of FMD vaccines and proposed to establish vaccine production facilities in the government sector.
“Punjab needs 100 million doses of FMD vaccines and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa requires around 30 million doses every year,” he said, adding that the provinces resisted the vaccine import.
Dr Mohammad Rana Mohammad Ayyub, who teaches at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore, said the economic cost of the disease was very high due to international restrictions on the export of livestock and its value-added products.
“Pakistan has not been given FMD-free status, so it is unable to export meat and other value-added products to China and European countries,” he said, adding that the private sector was very powerful and did not want the manufacturing of vaccines in public sector.
He said a unit at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Lahore had been stopped from producing FMD vaccines.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is executing major initiatives to contain outbreaks of the disease. The FAO through a Japan-funded project has given emergency vaccination to 583,309 animals in all four provinces.
FAO communication specialist in Islamabad Mehr Hassan said the country didn’t have the modern infrastructure required to produce FMD vaccines.
She said with very limited facilities and resources available to the VRI Peshawar, it was not justified to expect a ‘good quality standardised and quality-controlled FMD vaccine’ from it.
“The FAO has offered Pakistan technical assistance for the construction of new FMD vaccine facility but major investment needed for this facility (an economical unit of approximately $60 million for 50–60 million doses annual production) will have to be arranged by the government of Pakistan,” she said.
She said the quality FMD vaccine was cost effective.
An official dealing with the matter said the livestock department had proposed the Chinese investment for the disease control.
He said the department had submitted a plan to the focal person for China Pakistan Economic Corridor in the province seeking Rs7 billion worth of investment under CPEC in the sector.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2020