Missing the point

Missing the point Livestock department needs to be empowered to oversee veterinary drugs and services

By Tahir Ali (The News 27-2-2011)

Strangely enough, livestock and dairy development department in Pakistan has no powers to authorise and monitor veterinary drugs and services, which is obstructing hassle-free delivery of these services and creating complications for the stakeholders, primarily farmers.

Though the livestock department is better equipped, trained and capable of doing the work well, it has been denied these powers and the sector is being supervised by the health department at both federal and provincial levels.

At present, there is no separate veterinary drugs’ registration and regulation authority in the country. The health department issues licenses to animal druggists, monitors veterinary medicines and services and checks the sale of counterfeit veterinary drugs but it obviously cannot do that efficiently not only for being overburdened with responsibilities but also for being not properly trained for the purpose.

There is a dire need to shift the onus of registration and regulation of veterinary drugs and services to its parent and concerned livestock department rather than assigning the task to an already overburdened health department. The move will ensure efficient and effective delivery of veterinary drugs and services and improve their monitoring and reporting systems.

President all Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council Muhammad Arshad, says “Departments that have been formed for a purpose should be dealing with their respective task and not vice versa as is the case here. The health department officials are simply not qualified and lack the required expertise to oversee the veterinary sector properly. These responsibilities should be handed over to the livestock or food and agriculture department,’ he says adding, “There are highly qualified specialists with the livestock department who know the drugs and the nature and requirements of veterinary ailments. They will ensure effective monitoring of the sector.”

But, unfortunately, the health department has taken advantage of its clout to first take and later maintain the sector under its ambit though it is utterly unjustified if considered from the point of merit and farmers’ welfare,” he says.

Dr Ghulam Muhammad, a veterinary expert, says a separate veterinary drugs’ authority under the livestock department was urgently needed and the government should legislate for the purpose. “The posts of veterinary assistants can be upgraded and they can be authorised to ensure the availability of veterinary drugs and services to farmers. They are trained and possess the requisite expertise for working in the sector and will be dealing it better which will help farmers,” he says.

“Health inspectors or officials may be competent persons but only a veterinary expert knows well if a particular animal-specific drug or equipment is permissible or otherwise,” he argues.

“At present, substandard livestock drugs are openly sold in the market. To add to farmers’ woes, there are countless livestock quakes providing unauthorised diagnosis, therapy and prescription services to farmers with the result that the livestock suffers from ailments like low productivity of milk and meat,” Dr Ghulam informs.

Arshad says there are over 100 lawful veterinary manufacturers and about 200 veterinary drug importers in the country. “Illegal manufacturers are in thousands and are supplying animal drugs under the garb of herbal drugs. There are laws to stop the practices but health department officials have done nothing about it,” he says.

Director General Livestock and Dairy Development Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Sher Muhammad, says his department intended to legislate and request the government to hand over the responsibility of checking and monitoring the veterinary drugs and services to the livestock department. “Devolution of departments to the provinces is underway. When this process completes, we will come to know which components of the department are assigned to the provinces. Then we’ll prepare legislation and request the government to pass it from provincial assembly,” he says.

Haji Naimat Shah, vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is unhappy that manufacturing and selling of substandard veterinary drugs and unauthorised services to farmers continue unabated.

“Weak coordination and communication between the livestock and health departments cause delay in taking actions against the culprits selling, for example, fake veterinary drugs and working as animal doctors unlawfully”, he says.

While several veterinary drugs require freezing temperatures to maintain their efficacy, they are kept at normal temperature for lack of refrigerators and air-conditioners at the stores.

The livestock and dairy sector accounts for 52 percent of agriculture, 11 percent of gross domestic product, around 9 percent of exports, and feeds about 50 to 60 million people in the country. It also accounts for 51 percent of provincial GDP in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

More than 90 percent livestock is owned by small farmers and it is their main source of income. By patronising and developing the livestock sector, their financial position can be improved which will push them away from extremist forces in the country.

Even though total veterinary drug sales exceed billions of rupees per year in the country, it covers just about 10 percent of the total livestock industry potential in Pakistan. With a very large livestock population and progressing poultry industry, there is great potential for investment in the veterinary pharmaceuticals.

Officials of the health department agree that there is a need to do more work on the subject to improve the efficiency of the livestock department. Drug Act of 1964 would have to be amended to give the livestock department more powers. “We should think and plan about increasing the capacity of the livestock department as the health department might lack the required expertise,” says a health official who does not want to be identified.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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