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Animal Epidemics to Be 'Wiped Out'
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The authorities hope to control or even eradicate severe animal diseases like bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease by 2015, according to a recently released plan.

The authorities will set up a national animal epidemic-prevention system to curb the spread of animal diseases, according to a plan jointly issued by five government bodies, including the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The government will spend nearly 9 billion yuan ($1.15 billion) by 2008 to upgrade the country's epidemic-prevention infrastructure, expand its supervision system and train more veterinarians, according to the plan.

"As a result of the rapid expansion of China's poultry and livestock breeding industry (and) the growing trade in animal products, several severe animal diseases have begun to demonstrate large-scale prevalence," the plan said.

Deaths caused by animal diseases were responsible for direct economic losses of nearly 40 billion yuan ($5.13 billion) last year, the plan said.

"The country's weak and inadequate epidemic-prevention system has become a bottleneck that is stunting the development of the livestock breeding industry," the plan said.

Close supervision and quarantines will help curb the frequency of outbreaks of epidemics, which will bolster farmers' incomes and increase exports of meat products, it added.

Livestock breeding has become a major source of income for China's farmers, with more than 100 million people working in the industry.

The bird-flu epidemic that broke out in 2004 cost farmers 8 billion yuan ($1.02 billion) in income nationwide, trimmed companies' sales by 20 billion yuan ($2.57 billion) and destroyed millions of jobs.

Though China is a leading producer of meat products, very few of those products are exported. Only 1 percent of livestock and less than 5 percent of aquatic products make their way abroad.

The authorities hope to establish animal disease control and prevention centers in all 31 provinces and municipalities on the mainland next year. They are also planning to build 2,293 county-level centers around the country.

Four national-level laboratories will be set up to identify and analyze serious animal diseases like bird flu and bovine pests.

"An effective animal epidemic-prevention system means an overall upgrade of disease supervision, control and fast response capabilities, and a gradual elimination of some of the major animal epidemics," said Wang Changjiang, a section chief of the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary bureau.

The plan's goal is to reduce direct economic losses, and increase the production value of the poultry and livestock breeding industry to 1.8 trillion yuan ($231 billion) by next year.

(China Daily January 17, 2007)

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