The Ministry of Agriculture published a circular on Thursday accusing the slaughterhouse industry of running a “conspiracy” and “cartel” to fix prices and monopolise the market amid a “lack of enforcement” from local authorities.
The document, signed by Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon and dated February 15, instructs ministry officials to take a number of measures to ensure fair competition in the slaughterhouse marketplace, including breaking up monopolies and facilitating small-scale farmers in slaughtering their own stock.
Sen Sovann, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s Department of Animal Health and Production, said yesterday that the ministry had found the cartel to be an obstacle for free and fair competition, as well as a cause of higher meat prices.
“We have observed that since activating the circular, the price of animals has fallen,” he said. “We encourage having a slaughterhouse on the community level . . . this is a positive result to make meat prices more competitive, higher quality, and save costs for the consumer.”
One of the claims in the circular was that slaughterhouses were blocking new businesses from entering the market, and encouraged local authorities and provincial-level Agriculture Ministry officials to expedite licences for small-scale businesses.
When asked how businesses could have blocked small-scale farmers from getting licences without help from ministry officials, Sovann did not directly address the question.
“We don’t want to blame anyone,” he said. “I acknowledge that the crisis in the past is caused by not having complete competition.”