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Farmers ask for help as live pig prices plunge

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A boy is feeding pigs on his parents' farm in Pursat province. Heng Chivoan

Farmers ask for help as live pig prices plunge

Farmers have asked the government to intervene in the pig sector, where the prices of live hogs have plummeted and an alarming number of breeders are quitting the trade as money dries up, many of them smallholders who may have gambled a bit too much trying to recoup their losses.

According to the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA), for this week ending December 4, the per-kilogramme rates for live hogs on the farm are highest in the Phnom Penh-Kandal and West regions, at 7,500 riel ($1.81), followed by the Southwest and Southeast (7,200 riel), Northeast (7,000 riel) and Northwest (6,800 riel).

The regions are broken down into provinces as such: West – Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Pailin; Southwest – Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot, Kep, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong; Southeast – Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng; Northeast – Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri; and Northwest – Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey.

CLRA president Srun Pov told The Post on November 28 that live pig prices nationwide have fallen sharply in recent months and are now roughly half of what they had been a year ago, and lower than the average per-kilogramme going-rates in Thailand and Vietnam, at around 13,000 riel and 9,000 riel, respectively.

Pov ascribed the slump in prices to the rapid rises in pig production registered last year amid a breeding frenzy that was spurred on by government initiatives, as the Kingdom grappled with the Covid-19 crisis. This, he noted, resulted in a large number of animals left on the farms.

He also blamed the growing amounts of frozen pork and parts imported from distant countries through neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, a lot of which enters Cambodia illegally.

Pov explained that a major chunk of these imports comprise offal, feet and heads, which tend to be discarded in developed countries. Without proper quality controls, the merchandise may spoil due to inadequate storage coupled with long delivery times, and seriously endanger the health of consumers, he warned.

“This is a serious problem affecting local farmers, as these frozen meats are cheap: about 9,000 riel per kilogramme,” he said, adding that this has pushed down prices of their domestic counterparts, although rates for muscle meats have not witnessed significant drops.

“On behalf of the pig farmers, as well as the CLRA, I ask that the government intervene to ensure the survival of the sector. If today’s situation persists, it could mean the end for [pig] raising,” Pov said, noting that many will be unable to repay the loans they took out for the pig business.

“We local farmers manifestly want Cambodia to be able to ensure 100 per cent food security on its own, and have enough for exports going forward,” he added.

Concerning 2022 in particular, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has confirmed that there is adequate supply of pork for domestic consumption till the end of the year.

Pov remarked that although large-scale pig farms may have the resources to stay afloat despite the huge losses, smallholders who generally have 20-300 animals may not have the money to stay in the business.

Som Thearith, manager of the Chorn Heng pig farm in southeastern Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, confirmed that the price plunge seen in the last four or five months has spelled serious losses for smallholder farmers, and in many cases, the end.

He commented that large quantities of frozen pig meats are brought into Cambodia every day, and that illegal imports are adding undue pressure on local farmers.

Although live pigs can be sold for around 7,000 riel per kilogramme now, as opposed to 11,000-15,000 riel throughout 2021, the corresponding production costs fall in the range of 9,000-10,000 riel, leaving farmers unable to break even, he lamented.

“At this point, government support is imperative to bring the prices of live pigs back up, considering that many farmers are heavily in debt,” Thearith said.

On the other hand, imports of live hogs and their muscle meats have fallen to near zero, since the prices of their Cambodian counterparts are lower, he noted.

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