Aid ongoing for pig farms affected by African Swine Fever, says minister

From left: Dr Rundi and Chong debating the Veterinary Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in DUN today (Nov 23, 2022). Composite photo: Screenshots taken from Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) Facebook livestream.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Nov 23: Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi (GPS-PBB) says assistance for pig farmers who have been suffering losses due to African Swine Fever (ASF) has been started and it is ongoing.

He said this in response to Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) who raised the issue in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting at DUN complex here today.

“Regarding African Swine Fever, it is an ongoing assistance. We have just started to give this so-called ‘assistance’, we don’t call it compensation. There is no way we can compensate the loss due to African Swine Fever suffered by the pig farmers.

“Those (pigs) we have culled, registered, verified and so on, they (the owners) will be assisted, whether they (the pigs are) were domestic, domesticated, or industrial,” said Dr Rundi who also reminded remind Chong that the proper term for the disease is “African Swine Fever” and not “African Swine Flu”.

Chong had raised several questions with regards to the Africa Swine Fever situation in Sarawak.

The ASF first case was detected in June 2021, in Limbang which is in Northern Sarawak. Chong said, at the time, Dr Rundi had said it was under control.

Subsequently, however, the disease spread to Central Region as well as Southern Region despite Dr Rundi’s public assurance that the disease was under control in all cases.

“It seems that though there were claims that it was under control, but in fact the whole of Sarawak is infected. Most of the pig farms, from the Northern Region to the Southern Region have detected the Africa Swine Flu and that has caused a lot of damages and losses to the pig farming industry,” said Chong, quoting Dr Rundi’s statement that by mid-2021, more than 15,000 pigs had been culled.

Chong said as he visited wet markets, he received feedback from hawkers that there was a serious shortage in the supply in pork, causing prices of pork to increase several times within the last year.

“So far, it seems that the measures taken to control the Swine Flu has not been very effective and that the pig farming industry is facing a lot of challenges due to the flu and that they are seeking help from the government — to be more generous in helping these affected farms,” said Chong.

He also questioned the government as to what is the status of control over ASF in Sarawak; whether the disease has been eliminated or whether there are still pockets of areas which are seeing infections.

“How many pig farms were affected, resulted in closing down and the total loss suffered by the industry?

“And to date, what has the government done to help the affected pig farms, not only the farmers but also those downstream, like the hawkers who are involved in this industry where their livelihoods are affected? What are the measures, help or assistance, that have been rendered by the government to them?

“And lastly, the question is on the recovery of this industry. What is the projected period or time for the recovery of this pig farming industry to the pre-Africa Swine Flu time?” Chong asked. — DayakDaily