Four live pig importers submitted a joint letter to the ministries of Economy and Finance, and Commerce requesting a tender in principle to bring in hogs from abroad to better cover domestic market demand.
But industry insiders have argued that auctioning the right to import live pigs would run counter to government policy to boost domestic livestock production.
Noting that there are currently seven companies licensed to import pigs, the letter posits that the move would add more than $3 million a year to national revenue, given that each firm would have the right to bring in 960 hogs per day and pay over half a million dollars into state coffers.
Consumer pork prices would be driven down to more reasonable levels, it claimed.
At the same time without providing concrete details, it hinted at a departure from transparency issues related to imports, in which “importers had the exclusive control of the market and raised the prices of pork in the market at their own discretion … depriving other companies of the opportunity to secure import rights to compete in the free market.”
The four companies co-signing the letter are Power Inter ASEAN JN (Cambodia) Investment Co Ltd, Chhang Rithy Trading Import Export Co Ltd, Rosita (RST) Co Ltd and GT Foundation (Cambodia) Co Ltd.
Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association director Srun Pov called on the animal husbandry sector to follow the senior government’s guidelines, which lean heavily towards promoting domestic production and reducing imports that could potentially hurt local farmers.
“If these companies are allowed to import freely, I believe that this time the farmers will no longer trust the government, or the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“We should raise the pigs needed to meet Cambodian market demand. We, Cambodia, are not a rubbish bin. Stop imports, as they lead to virus transmission to domestic animals and sway prices. And worthy of special mention, local raw materials will no longer have a market,” he said.
According to Pov, allowing live pig imports would cost the Kingdom a staggering $300-500 million each month.
“The current supply of pork from local farmers is almost enough for the market and, while we still lack 10 per cent, we’ve made a little effort to top it off,” he said.
Commerce ministry spokesman Seang Thay said his ministry had yet to receive letters from the companies.
Meanwhile, in an apparent display of solidarity with local raisers, agriculture minister Veng Sakhon chided would-be importers in a Facebook post on August 18.
He said that their intentions “undermine Cambodia’s well-developed livestock industry, where animal husbandry activities have logged an 85 per cent rise” and that their pursuit “runs contrary to the policy of the Royal Government”.
The minister said the agriculture and commerce ministries are committed to restricting or reducing the volume of imports and to measures that prevent the illegal import of animals at all costs, in a bid to enhance the productivity of domestic livestock and ensure quality and safe supply for the domestic market.
The ministries are also striving to “raise the living standards of farmers, expand the investment potential in setting up livestock farms, feed mills, using local raw materials and directly creating local jobs”, Sakhon said.
According to the ministry’s General Directorate of Animal Health and Production, six companies are currently under serious consideration for in-principle approval to import live pigs into the Kingdom, and four others could get the nod to transit the hogs.
In the first six months of this year, the directorate reportedly received 61 applications for pig farms – seven sow farms and 54 pork production farms.