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Disease-free zones key to animal husbandry
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-28 01:20

A zone free of major animal diseases will mean increasing sales and exports of quality animal products -- plus swelling wallets for farmers.

That explains why the Ministry of Agriculture is throwing its weight behind a pilot project to build disease-free zones across the country, Wang Changjiang, a ministry official, said Tuesday.

In a country where the deaths of livestock and birds from various diseases cause losses of 23.8 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) a year, such a project charts a renewed course leading to the sustained development of the nation's animal husbandry sector, experts say.

Wang, of the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau, is referring to the "National Specific Disease-Free Pilot Project," which has cost 622 million yuan (US$74.9 million) since it was launched in 1998.

"The ministry has by now established pilot zones free from major diseases like swine fever, highly contagious bird flu and New Castle in five provinces and a municipality," Wang said.

The zones are located in areas geographically favourable for epidemic control, he said.

They include Jiaodong Peninsula in Shandong Province, Liaodong Peninsula in Liaoning Province, Sichuan Basin in Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, Hainan Island in Hainan Province and Songliao Plain in Jilin Province.

With reference to the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and World Trade Organization's sanitary and phytosanitary measures, the zones have applied effective veterinary control for animals and animal products, and their transportation, he said.

The goal is to ensure the absence of major animal diseases, and to stamp out other animal illnesses so the death rates of pigs, poultry and other animals will be minimal, according to Wang.

Thanks to deployment of sophisticated animal disease and epidemic monitoring, as well as reporting and control regimes in these areas, all the pilot zones have registered drastic declines in animal deaths.

For example, before the pilot project was initiated, some areas reported a 14 per cent death rate in birds in 1996. The rate has now been reduced to 8 per cent, according to ministry statistics.

In all, the pilot project has helped cut losses from animal diseases by 13 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) annually, according to ministry estimates.

The rapid development of animal husbandry has contributed to as much as half of the income rise to farmers in pilot areas in Sichuan and Chongqing, according to Wang.

Moreover, with their quarantine and quality standards complying with international standards, the pilot zones have had an edge in exporting their products.

The six zones exported 500,000 tons of animal products by the end of last year,ministry statistics show.

In fact, the six pilot zones are to serve as an example for other areas across the nation, officials say, with animal disease-free zones planned for 677 counties in 23 provinces, according to Wang.

Speaking at a forum on developing disease-free zones on Monday in Haikou, capital of South China's Hainan Province, Vice-Minister of Agriculture Fan Xiaojian said establishment of such zones will ultimately improve China's animal health and hygiene standards.

Disease-free zone status has apparently made Hainan more attractive to business people. The province signed 75 agricultural investment projects valued at 6.3 billion yuan (US$759 million) at a sideline meeting of the forum on Monday, according to a China News Service report.

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Disease-free zones key to animal husbandry


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