Last month, the Republic of Georgia faced an episode of African Swine Fever. While government officials say major spread was "prevented", now some economists are asking for an investigation into whether the virus was planted intentionally. They are also challenging the government's assertion that it 'prevented a major spread' of ASF.

Gia Khukhashvili, an economics expert, argues that "it's hard to talk of a subdued virus simply because most of the animals died or were culled already." He and his colleague, Davit Ebralidze, share claims concerning the "late government reaction" to ASF.

Meanwhile, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization released a report calling for an "immediate" and "rigorous" control campaign to prevent serious consequences. According to FAO, more than 30 000 pigs have died and 22 000 pigs have been culled. By mid-June, 52 out of 65 districts were suspected of being affected of ASF.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Bakur Kvezereli, contend that authorities have isolated pigs and halted their transport, killed pigs whose owners couldn't be found and disinfected affected areas. According to the Associated Press, the sale of pork around that area has been banned at shops and markets.

"Today we can say that thanks to the measures that have been taken we have managed to prevent the further spread of the epidemic," Kvezereli told the Associated Press.

Khukashvili and Ebralidze claims officials didn't start fighting the virus until it had spread all across the country. The Agriculture Ministry argues that mobile groups were immediately sent to affected districts as soon as they received the lab results that identified the virus.

"Delayed virus detection has resulted in a long danger period where the disease has been unrecognized and the virus could have moved to neighboring countries," Jan Slingenbergh, a senior animal health officer of FAO, said on June 8.

Khukhashvili also raises the possibility that the disease may have been deliberately introduced as a "biological weapon" and used to destroy local pig farmers. He suggests a possible motive might be to have less competition in the Georgian pork industry. The ministry rejects such claims though they admit they still have not identified the virus source. Khukhashvili wants a thorough investigation into how the virus appeared in Georgia.

Also, FAO advised that producers should be compensated for their lost animals. "It goes without saying, that these farmers who lost their livelihoods, should be given adequate compensation. This will indicate the government's true attitude towards the agricultural sector," Khukhashvili says. So far, there have been no discussion about compensations.

Source: The Messenger