Restaurants and the flourishing livestock trade in Bhutan have been hit hard with the government banning the sale of beef and pork following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the kingdom.
A Bhutan government spokesperson said cases of the contagious viral disease that affects all species of cloven-hoofed animals were being reported since the beginning of July in eastern Samdrup Jongkhar district, bordering India's northeastern state of Assam.
"The ban is likely to be in force for maybe another month," said Samdrup Jongkhar district livestock officer, Tshewang Gyeltshen.
"We have kept the infected cattle aside, besides inoculating the unaffected ones with ring vaccinations."
Red meat is popular with most Bhutanese. With both beef and pork banned, restaurants are the worst hit with business dipping. "Chicken and fish are available, but then people prefer beef and pork. Business has been very low for the past one month due to the ban," said Tushi Zemba, a restaurant owner that specialises in typical Bhutanese food.
Some clever hoteliers were, however, capitalising on the red meat scarcity by preparing dishes made out of dried beef.
"We had kept a stock of dry beef before the disease broke out and now we are selling a special dish that is much in demand with fresh red meat banned," said another restaurateur.
Beef momos or dumplings are a favourite delicacy among most Bhutanese and hotels that exclusively cater to such menus are the worst sufferers. "I am virtually out of business as my hotel is known for selling beef and pork delicacies," Y. Dorjang said.
A number of hotels and restaurants are now going for special chicken and fish items to keep their business alive.
"We need to do business to survive and are hence opting for alternatives," said Prema Dorji, a local woman hotelier.
Indo-Asian News Service