Having achieved a satisfactory level of food security in the country through technology led enhancement in farm productivity and diversification of food basket, the challenge before Indian agriculture is to ensure household nutritional security for an ever growing human population. The projections are that our population will be around 2 billion by 2050 A.D. surpassing China.
According to a FAO Report, the global meat production is projected to be 308.3 million tonnes (mt) in 2013 including pork around 115 mt. Asia, the leading pork producing region, accounts for almost 60% of the total production. The meat production in India was 5.5 mt by the end of the XI Plan (2011-12) with an annual growth rate of about 13%, accounting for 25.8% of GDP agricultural produce. India is endowed with the largest livestock and poultry population in the world playing a vital role in providing livelihood security to rural masses. Presently, marginal-, small-, and semi-medium farmers own about 88% of the livestock in India. Hence, development of livestock sector would result in making the growth more inclusive.
During 2012-13, our domestic production of pork was 0.45 mt with an average meat yield of about 39 kg/ animal, which is lower than the world average (79 kg/animal). The share of pork is around 8% of total meat production. Pig production, among other species has a higher potential to contribute to more economic gain due to two facts: (i) the pigs have higher fecundity, higher feed conversion efficiency, early maturity, shorter generation interval and relatively smaller space requirement. Apart from providing meat, it is also a source of bristles and manure. (ii) pig farming provides employment opportunities to seasonally employed rural farmers and supplement income to improve their living standards.
As per the XVIII Livestock Census (2007), pig population of India is 11.13 million, about 1.3% of its global population. Distribution of pig population across the country is not uniform, for instance, thick population of pigs is recorded in the eastern (2.8 million) and north-eastern (4.5 million) states; highest population is in Asom (2 million), followed by Uttar Pradesh (1.35 million), West Bengal (0.82 million), Jharkhand (0.73 million) and Nagaland (0.70 million). Most of the pig population is again in the tribal belts of the country where the people are nonvegetarian. Pork consumption being popular among select populations, improved pig husbandry programmes and pig-based integrated fish farming have significantly contributed in the poverty alleviation strategies of the Government.
In India, 70% of the pig population is reared under traditional small holder, low-input demand driven production system, except for limited number of semi-commercial pig farms in Kerala, Punjab and Goa. The typical production system consists of a simple pigsty and feeding comprises locally available grains, vegetables and agricultural byproducts along with kitchen waste. Certain bottlenecks and threats in pig farming are: absence of sufficient number of breeder farmers, tendency of the pig grower to raise pig to marketable age on zero to negligible inputs and lesser preference of the consumers for pork from the local pigs etc. Absence of sufficient number of breeder farmers throughout the country is a major constraint leading to lesser availability of quality pigs for fattener farmers and market. Therefore, genetic improvement of indigenous pigs through conventional and molecular method must be undertaken on priority for production of superior germplasm. Religious taboo attached with pork consumption is also a weakness for which marketing of pork has to be confined to a selective group.
Of the 144 livestock and poultry breeds registered by the NBAGR, Karnal, two are of pigs while more than 10 unregistered populations/strains of indigenous pigs are found across the country. Their characterization, evaluation, conservation and documentation need to be taken up to help in identification of candidate markers for productive and reproductive traits. Large-scale application of artificial insemination (AI) technology under field conditions and horizontal spread of superior germplasm needs to be taken up expeditiously. Different strains of indigenous pigs from Indian states need to be identified, characterized, documented, improved and conserved (in-situ and ex-situ).
More than 60% deficiency in concentrate feed sources is a threat to the intensive pig production. Research efforts are needed to carry out nutritional analysis of locally available unconventional feed resources, and develop balanced ration for various categories of pigs using these feed resources to reduce feed cost. The existing and emerging swine pathogens, especially of transboundary nature, have to be closely monitored and suitable health interventions need to be developed on priority. Further, limited availability of vaccine, emergence of new disease like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) are threats for pig production in India. However, it is possible to overcome all these constraints and threats by proper planning and scientific interventions.
Mega Seed Project on Pig and AICRP on Pig implemented by the National Research Centre on Pig enable regular supply of good quality pig germplasm, location-specific research on pig nutrition and breeding throughout India. The NRC on Pig is undertaking basic, applied and strategic research on pigs and also imparting training on low-cost production technology, modern husbandry practices, pork product processing, artificial insemination, and knowledge on zoonotic diseases, to produce good quality pork and pork products from healthy pigs. Besides, the Council emphasizes on developing 'pig villages' in selected areas, by establishing and strengthening the marketing mechanisms at the local level to the marketing channels, and integrate production programme with slaughterhouses to ensure better sustainability. Notwithstanding, technologies for low-cost production are being developed to produce pork economically. Further, the Government intends to promote pig farms as resource centers for supplying breeding animals to the breeder farms, wherein private players shall have stakeholdership in production and value addition.
Out of 60 g of daily protein requirement as per Indian Council of Medical Research recommendation, about 20 g should be from animal protein source. Considering a modest figure of 20% of total population (254 million) consuming pork in the country and assuming 2 g out of 20 g of daily animal protein requirement sourced through pork, the total requirement of pork would be around 0.93 million tonne. Thus the present shortfall of pork in the country is about 0.48 million tonne or in other words there is a deficit of 48.38%. There is an urgent need to narrow the gap by scientific pig farming along with post-slaughter pork processing and development of products with improved shelf-life to promote the pork industry in India.
Given its prospects, piggery has the potential to have a positive impact on the livelihood of millions of resource poor, under-privileged, landless and marginal farmers.