Despite fewer people eating chicken since the outbreak of bird flu in Cambodia, the price of chicken meat in Phnom Penh markets has risen from 5,000 riel a kilogram last year to the current price of 7,000 to 8,000 riel.
Vendors say this is because they don't want to take cheaper, commercially bred chickens, preferring to sell free-range chickens from provincial homes.
nimals and animal products are to be banned from Phnom Penh marketplaces if they
do not have documents verifying they are safe for human consumption.
Over a year after it was passed (March 13, 2003), Kep Chuktema, Governor of Phnom
Penh, has implemented a subdecree on the sale of meat that is designed to prevent
infections from disease, such as the avian influenza.
Authorities across the seven districts of Phnom Penh and the Department of Animal
Health and Production (DAHP) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
in Phnom Penh are responsible for making visual inspections of animals and products
and issuing animal health certificates.
In the case of businesses seriously flouting the subdecree, the authorities will
fine them or collect evidence to send those businesses to court, Chuktema said in
a statement to media.
He said business owners must pay a tax to official veterinarians inspecting animals,
but did not specify how much.
The tightening of checks on meat sales comes as municipal and DAHP officials try
to improve the standard of the many small abattoirs in and around the city.
Chea Saran, deputy chief of agriculture in Russey Keo district, said previously a
tax of 1,500 riel was charged to check one cow prior to slaughter, but did not know
if this ,would change after the governor's announcement.
Saran said his district has 26 family-run chicken and duck farms, five abattoirs
for killing cattle and ten for pigs. He estimates that each night 30 cows and 300
pigs are killed in his district and sold to Phnom Penh marketplaces.
Sok Noeung, 61, sells whole roasted pigs in O'Russei market and said he owns a residential
flat used for killing pigs in Seven Makara district in central Phnom Penh that is
checked every day by DAHP officers.
Noeung said he has to pay 15,000 riel each month to have his pigs inspected and 40,000
riel twice a year to operate his backyard abattoir. He has to pay extra if he kills
more than 90 pigs in a month.
Sok Sreymao, 44, beef seller in O'Russei market, said she buys beef from a supplier
at Psar Chas and is given an animal health certificate without paying an inspector,
but her middleman pays.
"They [veterinarians] not only ask for animal health certificates, but also
check the meat. If I have a certificate from animal health and product officers but
my meat isn't good, they won't let me sell in the market," Sreymao said.
"Now, I don't know how much they would fine me. I had an experience in 1982
[when] I was banned once when I sold bad meat, but officers only reprimanded me,"
She said she has never taken beef from the provinces that hasn't been vet-inspected,
but other sellers do.
"Now, there isn't enough beef to sell; there are a lot of cows being exported
to Vietnam every day," said Sreymao.
Sreymao's current supplier has his cattle killed at one of the major slaughter areas,
in Chruoy Changvar. The other main site is at Boeng Salang in the west of Phnom Penh.
Chea Saran said most Russey Keo residents respect the municipality's advice but some
continue to slaughter animals away from the eyes of official inspectors. He said
he conducts daily checks at local abattoirs and inspects chicken farms weekly.
There is also a minor problem with animal flesh illegally imported at night from
the provinces, mostly from Kampong Chhnang province.
Thuy Sakhon, deputy governor of Russey Keo district, accepted that businessmen do
not adhere to the subdecree completely, but the number of those breaking the rules
is gradually decreasing.