THE provincial governor of Svay Rieng province has banned all imports of pork and live pigs from Vietnam, fearing they carry serious diseases that could severely damage the local pig industry through contamination, as well as negatively harm the health of consumers.
Svay Rieng provincial Governor Chheang Am issued a statement on May 4 instructing all relevant authorities, including those operating border checkpoints, to “immediately cease all imports of pork and live pigs” from Vietnam, in order to prevent a potential “epidemic” of various diseases.
“Agriculture officials reported that there are pig diseases occurring in neighbouring countries, so the authority decided to ban their pigs until the situation is better,” he said
Thursday, and added that outbreaks of two diseases – foot-and-mouth disease and porcine respiratory and repro-
ductive syndrome (PRRD) – had recently been detected in Vietnam.
Sek Vanny, deputy director of the Drug and Food Office at the Svay Rieng Health Department, said the ban had been imposed in part because Vietnamese pig-raisers had been deliberately and illegally dumping diseased pigs on the Cambodian market at cheap prices to get rid of the animals.
“If we cannot stop them, they will still import [the diseased pigs], which will transmit the disease to local pigs. And when people eat it, it will affect their health,” he said.
He added that, because the diseased Vietnamese pigs are relatively cheap, Cambodian villagers would continue to buy them unless all corridors through which they are illegally imported were blocked.
Nguyen Chi Dzung, a counsellor from the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, said Thursday that he had heard no information of any disease outbreak in Tay Ninh, the Vietnamese province that borders Svay Rieng, but confirmed that such outbreaks had occurred in the past.
“In Vietnam, it’s [happened] many times – in the north, in the middle and the south,” he said. He later pointed to Vietnamese media reports on recent “epidemics” of foot-and-mouth-disease and PRRD, or blue ear, in north and south Vietnam, respectively.
He said it was well within the rights of local officials to ban Vietnamese pigs they consider contaminated by disease, though he said the ban should be lifted “when the situation no longer exists”.
This is not the first time disease-ridden pigs from neighbouring countries have allegedly been dumped on the Cambodian market, according to Curtis Hundley, chief of party at the USAID’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) economic development project, which helps develop local agriculture.
“This is the same thing that happened in 2007, and they were importing hundreds, if not thousands of pigs a day. At that time they had blue ear, gastrointestinal and foot-and-mouth,” he said.
The 2007 outbreak occurred in Vietnam and Thailand, countries that export major quantities of pigs into Cambodia, and prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to ban all imports of pigs from both countries for a period of eight months, a move that was applauded by the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association.
Srun Pov, the deputy president of the association, said Wednesday that about 600 Vietnamese pigs, many of them carrying diseases, were being illegally smuggled into Cambodia every day, and called for a nationwide ban.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG