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Pigs are inspected at a Mong Reththy feed mill in Preah Sihanouk province in 2013. Sam Rith

Swine smugglers put on notice

The Ministry of Agriculture has authorised a new private sector task force to investigate reports of widespread pig smuggling and bogus pig-raising operations, which domestic pig farmers claim have put market prices on live swine in a trough.

The task force is led by agro-industrial tycoon Mong Reththy, whose eponymous conglomerate operates the country’s largest industrial piggery, and includes representatives of agro-food giant CP Cambodia and several smaller hog-raising farms and associations.

“The investigating team will monitor pig smuggling activities and report any incidents of illicit trade to the relevant ministries and customs police so they can take action,” Reththy said yesterday.

He explained that the market price on imported live swine has fallen to as low as $1.3 per kilo, well below the price on domestic-raised pigs, currently $1.6 per kilo. He said this was inexplicably cheap given that the market price in Thailand and Vietnam is also $1.6 per kilo and imported pigs are subject to a 15 percent VAT as well as additional charges.

The low cost on imported pigs, according to Reththy, has wreaked havoc on domestic producers and resulted in many smallholder farmers leaving the industry.

Minister of Agriculture Veng Sokhon said during a meeting yesterday with private sector pig farmers and concerned authorities that his ministry lacked the resources to monitor and counter pig smuggling, and welcomed private sector involvement.

“We alone cannot handle all the illegal activities as we do not have enough officials,” he said. “So we welcome the private sector’s cooperation in cracking down on illegal pig imports at the slaughterhouse as well as at the border, and also on fraudulent pig farms.”

He said that the government was intent on discovering who was behind these bogus pig-raising farms that pass off pigs smuggled in from Thailand and Vietnam as locally raised hogs.

“We need to find out where these fraudulent pig farms are operating and we should not be afraid to say who is behind them,” he said. “The private sector can also inform us of any ministry officials who do not do their duty [and act on reports], and we will take action on these cases and work through the judicial system.”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Cambodian hog farmers raised nearly 900,000 pigs last year, while an additional 450,000 pigs were imported from Vietnam and Thailand.

Customs officials say many of these imported pigs entered the country without proper certification or duties paid.

Pen Sam Ath, deputy general director of the General Department of Customs and Excise, said the government would offer incentives to informants who help expose pig smuggling rings, which rob the state coffers of due taxes.

“We are happy to cooperate with the private sector and to receive information on illegal activities,” he said. “We will keep all sources confidential and informants will receive 10 percent [of the applicable duties] on cases we close.”

Meanwhile, Sokhon said his ministry was working to support the sector by restricting the cross-border traffic of live swine. He said a quota imposed last month limits legal imports to 1,250 live pigs per day.

He added that some imports were needed to meet the high local demand on pork products, but the ministry would consider reducing this quota if local producers were capable of meeting that demand.

However, Ly Laville, general manager of M’s Pig ACMC Cambodia Co Ltd, said there was no reason Cambodia should be importing pigs. He asserted that domestic hog farmers were capable of supplying 3,000 pigs per day, while industrial pig-raising operations could add an additional 4,000 daily.

“We’re currently not meeting the market’s demand, but it would easily be possible for local pig-raising operations to expand and fully supply the market,” he said. “So there really is no reason to be importing pigs, which only increases the risk of disease.”

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