How China's love for exotic wild meat costing world dearly

How Chinas love for exotic wild meat costing world dearly

COVID-19 likely to push fragile global economy into recession; Big jolt to ailing Indian economy as well

Global pandemics and the tolls that they take on global economies are not new to this world. Also, human history is replete with heartrending stories of such pandemics.

Nearly a century ago in 1918, over 17 million people around the world fell prey to influenza pandemic, popular as Spanish flu, which originated from pigs in France.

As per estimates, it infected close to 500 million, nearly 27 per cent of the world population then. Recently, SARS, a respiratory disease caused by SARS Coronavirus, caused global epidemic in 2002.

SARS virus was traced to cave-living horseshoe bats in Yunnan province in China. Humans contracted the virus through civets sold for meat in this Chinese province. Thereafter, SARS Coronavirus created a global scare, causing a $54 billion damage to global economy.

For uninitiated, civet is a cat-like wild animal. It releases musk-like substance, also called civet. This unique perfume has a devotional use too.

It is applied to idol of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, along with some other perfumes, during special prayers. But in China, civet meat is an exotic delicacy. Nevertheless, the world paid a heavy economic price in 2002 due to SARS thanks to the love of Chinese people for civet meat.

Now, this distinct love of Chinese people for exotic wild meat has put the world in peril yet again. The novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, which is fast spreading across the world, also has roots in China.

The virus has been traced to Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province and the largest city in Central China with a population of 11 million. Apart from seafood, wild animals like pangolins, civets, raccon dogs, porcupines and snakes are said to be sold for meat at the market.

Some of these animals are believed to have medicinal uses as well. It is suspected that latest coronavirus has passed into human beings from bats via pangolins sold for meat at the market.

The coronavirus first infected people in Wuhan in early January this year before spreading to other parts of China and subsequently to other countries. No surprise Wuhan resembles a ghost town now.

As per the latest count of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the coronavirus has spread to 83 countries, with nearly one lakh confirmed cases and around 2,900 deaths. China accounts for over 80,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths. The WHO has compared it with influenza pandemic.

Further, the virus is leaving behind a long trail of economic destruction and damage. World stock markets witnessed carnage in the last couple of weeks. In US alone, S&P-500 index nosedived 12 per cent since February 19, the steepest fall in the last nine years.

As result, investors lost nearly $3 trillion (Rs 221 lakh crore) in wealth which is more than the entire Indian GDP. Indian stock markets also plunged.

The virus outbreak is taking heavy toll on travel and hospitality industries as well. Global airlines body IATA has estimated that airlines will lose close to $113 billion (Rs 8.4 lakh crore) in revenues in 2020 if the virus spreads further.

The economic damage doesn't end here though. As China is known as the factory of the world, companies from around the world depend on the communist country for supply of raw materials and components.

These supplies came to a standstill now as factories were shut down in China to control the spread of the virus. So, there is every possibility of COVID-2019 pushing the fragile global economy into a recession.

With coronavirus causing so much economic damage around the world, will Indian economy escape from its clutches? Absolutely not. For the slowing Indian economy battered by ill-advised demonetisation in November 2016 and hastily implemented Goods & Services Tax (GST) a few months later, the global coronavirus outbreak came as a big jolt.

It's not easy for any economy to steer clear of triple whammy in as many years. Official data shows the country's GDP had gradually decelerated from a high of 8.2 per cent during April-June 2018 quarter to a low of 4.7 per cent in the latest quarter (October-December 2019), for which data was out recently.

The Modi government has been trying every trick in its armoury to put the economy on a higher growth track. But none of those steps has succeeded thus far. With the corona shock, India's economy will hit a new low.

It's too early to guesstimate when the slowdown will bottom out. Further, political bickering over citizenship issues like CAA and NRC has further complicated the situation. So, the Modi government has its task cut out.

Will the Centre announce more measures to stem the corona rot? Will Reserve Bank of India (RBI) follow in the footsteps of US Fed, its counterpart in the United States, and go for an impromptu interest rate cut?

Anything is possible as the virus from Wuhan is likely to cause a big dent in India's economic growth. Like a human confirmed with infection of coronavirus, the Indian economy also needs ample doses of antiviral drugs and paracetamol.

But the problem lies in identifying right drugs for the cure of the economy. The moot question is whether the Modi government has right specialist 'doctors' to take care of the ailing economy.

When the country's economy is reeling under corona, it is very likely that the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will also feel the pinch.

More so is the Telangana economy as the State has a confirmed case of coronavirus infection. Further, Telangana has a global IT hub in Hyderabad, which caters to the technology needs of every nook and corner of the world.

However, the Telangana government's diktat to IT companies not to force their employees to work from home, is an immature step, to say the least. IT sector is the crown jewel of the Telangana economy.

So, the government should be extremely careful while issuing such diktats. Reason cited for such a direction is that such a move by IT companies will create unnecessary panic among people. But the government should see the brighter side of it. Over 5.4 lakh people work in Hyderabad's IT sector.

If a good number of them work from home, that prevents them from coming in contact with infected persons, if any, in the city. IT sector is labour-intensive. So, disruption to IT companies' workflow should be avoided at any cost.

Further, only IT companies can allow their employees to work from home. That advantage is not there for other sectors like manufacturing. So, there is no harm in allowing IT companies to make their employees work from home. Hope better sense prevails on the Telangana administration.

Coming back to the global corona scare, entire world is going through tough times now thanks to the love of Chinese people for exotic wild meat. So, here is a fervent appeal to Chinese people and their leaders.

It is better for the world if you refrain from gobbling up exotic wild animals and growing such animals in farms at least for next couple of decades. If you don't do that, the world will be at the mercy of more deadly virus like SARS and COVID-19. The world and its wheel of growth is currently dependent on you and your country's supplies.

With the corona jolt, countries like India may try to emerge as an alternative to China's manufacturing prowess. If that happens, Chinese people can happily resume their rightful habit of eating exotic animals.

Furthermore, they can also resume the eating habit even if an alternative doesn't emerge after a couple of decades. After all, the world needs a second chance to de-risk the perils of globalisation and China's dominance in manufacturing. The Communist China must give that chance, isn't it?

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