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Food for Thought

Food for Thought

It is good news that the long-comatose Animal Husbandry and Veterinary department in Assam is at last showing some signs of stirring to life. If it fully awakens to the vast commercial possibilities it can tap, so much the better. Among the activities that can provide earning power to the rural jobless in a matter of months, livestock farming would easily figure in the top bracket of the list. It can do wonders to village economies as well as the State’s overall food production and nutrition scene.

Yet the State has been treated to the sad spectacle of government poultries, duckeries and goat farms closing down over the years, even as demand for their meat has been shooting upward. Dairies are floundering over high cost of factors including cattle feed. Pork is a perennial favorite for foodies, yet like fish, its production within the State is so inadequate that suppliers from outside have been filling that space. This immense loss of opportunity in just one sector is typical of Assam, the lack of vision and initiative by successive governments an enormous disservice to the State’s youth.

The buzz generated by the recently held national livestock and poultry fair at Khanapara in Guwahati after a hiatus of 24 years gives an idea of what could have been had opportunities been seized. Still, better late than never, and surely the change of guard at the top of the department lately has much to do with the renewed activity. Both its officials and participating livestock farmers from various districts of Assam as well as neighboring States can take heart from a well-made beginning.

The seminars and discussions, technical sessions and training programmes in the four days of the fair ought to bring about dissemination of information about latest advances in livestock farming. Meanwhile, in a vital albeit much belated move, the Assam government is set to come out with a policy for livestock farming and roping in the private sector to invest therein. No more time must now be lost in implementing this policy and taking appropriate follow-up measures to get this sector up and moving. Stagnation in agriculture and irrigation, as well as vagaries of weather, could open the door to livestock farmers in taking the lead to increase rural income.

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