Senator Mong Reththy has denied criticising Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon over imports of pigs flooding into Cambodia from neighbouring countries.
An influx of pigs from Vietnam and Thailand has caused the price of pork to fall sharply over the past few months to about $1.25 per kilogram, while the cost base of farmers is at an average of $1.88 per kilo.
Farmers argue that cheap imports of live pigs are often illegal, and shouldn’t be allowed to undercut the local industry. Many are facing heavy losses and risk going out of business.
Mr Reththy, who is co-chairman of the agriculture and agro-industry working group at the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, yesterday posted on Facebook a rejection of claims he had hit out at Mr Sakhon over the issue.
Allegations of the criticism against Mr Sakhon surfaced after he visited a pig farm in Pailin last week.
But Mr Reththy said he only communicated the concerns of pig farmers to the minister and then relayed his response back, adding: “There is no reason to criticise Mr Sakhon at all.”
“Pig raisers always complain to me and say the Agriculture Ministry must stop illegal imports of pigs, or the local industry will die.
“I told them that the pigs are not being illegally imported if the Agriculture Ministry has given traders a licence to bring them in. In those circumstances, it is not illicit,” he said.
Chea Sombo, a pig raiser in Kampong Chhanang province, said he and many others are facing financial ruin.
“What I spend is outweighing how much I make in return. It is extremely difficult for me to raise pigs on my own any more. Now I have to cooperate with a company otherwise I will earn nothing,” he said.
Srun Pov, deputy president of the Pig Raiser’s Association, said his organisation is trying to improve the lives of its members.
“We will improve pig raisers’ knowledge, find markets for them and explore ways to prevent imports,” he said.
As part of a crackdown on pig imports, the ministry has set a quota of 1,250 pigs to be allowed into the country each day. However, farmers say this is regularly being exceeded, particularly due to the illegal trade.
According to the Cambodia Pig Raising Association, about 8,000 pigs are needed to supply the local market every day. About 7,000 pigs are currently supplied by local farmers, while about 1,000 are imported legitimately from neighbouring countries.