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Row over pig imports causes a stink for locals

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Piglets in a local pig farm. Supplied

Government officials yesterday again rejected pleas from local pig raisers to curb imports of pigs into the country, proposing instead that struggling small-sized pig farmers consider merging with larger commercial firms.

Speaking at a forum on agriculture yesterday, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said local, family-run pig farming businesses that are struggling to keep afloat should stop asking authorities to intervene and should instead change their business models, modernise their facilities and procedures or be absorbed by larger commercial operations.

“Small, family-run pig farming businesses must join commercial farms to compete with international firms. The alternative is to quit the business,” he said.

His comments follow repeated public requests made by the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association to the government to slash taxes for players in the meat industry and consider banning imports to help the sector cope with fierce international competition that is causing prices for livestock to plummet.

Mr Sakhon stressed that Cambodia cannot ban shipments of pigs into the country without solid reasons based on technical prerequisites, such as sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

He also said that banning pig imports would hurt other sectors of economic activity in the country, arguing that if Cambodia limits or halts pig imports, trade partners would retaliate by banning imports of Cambodian agricultural goods such as rice, cassava or rubber.

Chet Phirum, the deputy director of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association, said the government must intervene to curb imports of live pigs flooding the local market and making the price of the commodity plummet.

“Limiting imports from neighbouring countries would allow local farmers to survive,” he said, adding that the first step would be to stop illegal shipments of pigs into the country that do not pay taxes.

“We are not asking for a total ban on imports, we just need the government to intervene to make sure there is room for local farmers in the sector, and that the market is not flooded with pigs from other countries.

“We need to find a balance that allows local farmers to survive.”

Sen Sovann, the director general of the general directorate of animal health and production, told Khmer Times that demand for pigs in Cambodia amounts to three million per year. However, only 2.2 million can be raised locally.

“We cannot ban imports without scientific proof. This would go against the free trade principles upon which the WTO is built,” he said.

“If we were to ban imports of pigs, we would get sued, and we would lose.

“Our only option to save the sector is by modernising it, while also improving production and efficiency to reduce costs.”

This month the price of pigs bounced back to $1.55 per kilogram from $1.42 the month before.

Throughout 2016, an adult pig sold for $1.75-$2 per kilogram, according to the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association. However, imported pigs were selling as cheaply as $1.55 per kilogram.

Following a request from the Ministry of Agriculture in May 2017, the Ministry of Interior set a quota for live pig imports, limiting their number to 1,250 a day.

The market can absorb 8,000 live pigs per day with local farmers being able to produce just 6,000 a day, according to official estimates.

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