Curbing livestock smuggling

Curbing livestock smuggling

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/17/agriculture-and-technology-curbing-livestock-smuggling.html

TO curb smuggling and regulate export of animals to Afghanistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government plans to set up multi-departmental check-posts equipped with vigilance cameras, computers and digital permit readers at the entry points of the province and the tribal belt.

“To be manned by officials from livestock, police and other relevant departments and supervised by area commissioners, the check-posts will record data about movement of animals to and from the province which will be shared with the home department” says Director General of Livestock, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Sher Muhammad.

“Export of livestock will be allowed only via Torkham border in the Khyber Agency. The cattle for export from Punjab will be registered at the Attock Bridge, and issued a certificate. From there, the animals will be escorted by police in the settled area, and then by the political administration in the tribal belt, up to the Pakistan-Afghan border.

“This elaborate monitoring will check smuggling and facilitate legal exporters, preventing misuse of permits for export of animals and meat to Afghanistan,” says Dr Sher.

“The meat/animal permits for Fata will be issued on a daily basis by the livestock department on the recommendations of the relevant political administration. The permitted quota will have to be lifted the same day or else it will expire. Security forces will inform the livestock department of their meat or animal requirements to guard against misuse of their names,” he added.

Special cattle yards will be established to keep the impounded animals which will be subsequently auctioned. To ensure public cooperation, the government will reward those giving information about movement of animals through illegal routes, keeping their names confidential.

The DG said standard operation procedures with clear-cut definition of responsibilities have been issued to the concerned departments, and hopefully the check-posts would start functioning shortly.

Lack of a centralised export permit issuance system in Islamabad, weak coordination among stakeholders and lack of centrally-controlled computerised monitoring of the trade have made it difficult to check smuggling of animals and meat.

Export is a federal subject and its regulation requires close coordination between provincial and federal governments.

However, KP, despite being badly affected by animal exports and smuggling, is not taken on board on the issue of how many animals are to be exported and by which routes.

The installation of digital permit readers is a good decision, but it will not be possible to implement it unless the federal government issues machine readable export permits. Moreover, it requires huge funds and technical support from Nadra which at present is engaged in digitalisation of passports and arms licenses.

The provincial livestock department has submitted legislation on the technology which is likely to be taken up by the provincial assembly shortly.

Prices of animals and meat have surged by 30 to 50 per cent since last year with mutton selling at Rs500-600 and beef at Rs240-300.

A farmer said it was criminal that for the last few years, when the country itself faced shortage of animals and meat was being imported from India, the government had allowed export and smuggling of animals.

“The government has miserably failed to safeguard the interests of the poor consumers. Rather than exporting live animals to other countries, the government should export value-added products like meat, meat products and finished leather goods. The current temporary ban on exports of meat and animals should be extended for at least 10 years to augment the local livestock pool,” he said.

The federal commerce ministry had recently imposed ban on export of meat and live animals for three months, which still continues.

The government usually issues permits for around 0.25 million animals but around thrice the number are taken across the border due to loopholes in the existing system. While officials man the roads, smugglers use the unfrequented routes for smuggling animals.

The phenomenon not only brings about dearth of animals and raise meat prices locally, the leather industry also suffers as the availability of skins comes down.

The Pakistan Tanners Association has called for ban on export and strict control over smuggling of live animals. The leather industry, second largest value-added and export-oriented industry of the country after textiles, got over 17 million skins in 2006 but only eight million in 2010. Consequently, export of leather products has come down to $867 million in 2009 from 1.22 billion in 2007-08.

Apart from smuggling and export and death of around 2 million animals in the floods of this and last year, other factors responsible for the dearth of animals are: the failure to improve the reproductive efficiency, the lack of beef breeds and affordable livestock feed/ fodder and the insufficient curative and preventive facilities and the like.

To increase the livestock population in the country, provision of fodder and feed to farmers on affordable rates, expansion of animal health care system and beef breed development, animal-flattening programme and provision of soft loans to livestock farmers are needed. Cross-breeding of local and foreign cattle could also increase the weight of animals for upto 15-20 per cent.

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

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