Uttarakhand govt may lift import ban on exotic sheep to boost farmers’ income, check migration

A government official said the capacity of the indigenous varieties of sheep to yield meat and fine-quality wool has been affected owing to inbreeding caused by the ban on the import of exotic varieties.

Updated: Aug 31, 2018 13:04:01

By Deep Joshi

A shepherd with his flock at the green pastures of Aali Bugyal in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand. (HT File Photo )

The Uttarakhand government is considering lifting the ban on import of exotic varieties of sheep known for their high yields of meat and wool, a move aimed at boosting the economy of the people in border areas and checking their forced migration.

“The capacity of the indigenous varieties of sheep to yield meat and fine-quality wool has been affected owing to inbreeding caused by the ban on the import of exotic varieties,” said Avinash Anand, chief executive officer of the Uttarakhand Sheep and Wool Development Board. “We are now considering lifting the ban, in force for 25 years, on the import of the exotic varieties of sheep,” he said.

“Once the ban is lifted, we will have the indigenous varieties of brood ewes cross-bred with exotic varieties of rams known for their high yield of meat and fine quality of wool.” Such a move would “help us propagate highly productive breed of sheep among farmers, which would bring about a turnaround in their pastoral economy that would help check forced migration from the border areas,” Anand said.

Cooperatives and animal husbandry secretary R Meenakshi Sundaram said technological and marketing interventions have also been introduced to ensure that fine-quality wool and meat procured by sheep farmers fetch them good returns in domestic and international markets. “These initiatives are meant not only for sheep farmers who procure wool or those who earn profits by selling sheep, but also for spinners and weavers,” he said.

Anand said a proposal had been put up before the executive committee of the National Livestock Mission (NLM) on the government’s plan to import exotic varieties of sheep. “The proposal is likely to be approved very soon,” Anand said, adding similar proposals relating to improvement of sheep breed had also been submitted to NLM by Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir governments.

“Under that proposal we have sought permission to import two exotic varieties of sheep, which we used to do before it was banned by the central government sometime in the mid-1990s,” said the official. According to him, Merino is one such variety. “It is a dual purpose sheep which not only offers excellent meat yields but also fine-quality wool,” he said, adding the same “goes for Rambouillet, another exotic breed of sheep.”

According to officials, the exotic varieties of sheep will be imported from Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Europe and some American countries. The genetic improvement of the local varieties of sheep following their crossbreeding would help boost the income of farmers in border areas in many ways.

“The crossbred progeny would not only offer excellent yield of meat but also fine-quality wool, which would fetch sheep farmers good market price,” Anand said, adding other interventions had also been introduced to boost their income.

“Sheep farmers, for instance, are being encouraged to use machines for shearing sheep, for which they are being given incentives. The wool thus procured is of fine quality and used in preparing apparel, such as sweaters and tweeds,” he said.

Besides, the government is grading sheep wool to fix its rate. “An online tracking system has been introduced so that the monetary returns sheep farmers get for their products reach their bank accounts,” Anand said. “We are also trying to help sheep farmers tie up with buyers so that they get good price for sale of sheep for meat.”


First Published: Aug 31, 2018 13:04:01


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