The pig production sector is thriving and on the up following an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) that resulted in huge losses of hog populations and put the future of small-holder farmers in jeopardy.

But industry insiders are nervous about whether the current trends of increased domestic production and decreased imports will carry over into the post-Covid-19 era.

The Covid-19 crisis prompted the government to develop new policies that would reinforce agriculture practices and animal husbandry to ensure adequate food supplies for the Kingdom.

Early in July, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries issued a circular stating that Cambodia must strive to promote animal husbandry and guarantee that meat and animal-product supply meets domestic demand.

It called for organising campaigns that aim to inspire traditional or family-based animal farmers to ramp up production, with special attention to short-cycle animals – such as pigs and poultry – to better equip the Kingdom to facilitate a timely response to food security issues.

Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA) president Srun Pov told The Post on December 14 that the pace of corporate and family-run pig farming operations had radically accelerated after a precipitous plunge at the onset of ASF last year.

This, she said is thanks to the government’s all-out drive via the ministry to shore up local production and cultivation.

With the current increase in pig breeding, Cambodia hopes to further reduce its reliance on imports to satisfy local consumption needs, she said, pointing out that hogs shipped in from Thailand account for 20-30 per cent of total domestic demand.

The daily demand for pork in the Kingdom requires the equivalent of 7,000-8,000 pigs, of which about 6,000 are domestic, she said, noting that this is lower than pre-Covid-19 levels due to a drop in tourists, as well as weddings and major celebrations.

“For the time being, pig imports from neighbouring countries aren’t as high as they were before owing to declining market demand and increased domestic breeding,” Pov said.

And she said she was optimistic that the trend would hold for the foreseeable future. “As I see it, pig imports will not see much of a surge even after demand picks up”, as the world enters the post-Covid-19 era, she said.

The price of live hog now ranges from 10,100-12,500 riel ($2.48-3.07) per kg, up from the 8,000 riel price tag in the same period last year, Pov said.

According to Pov, about 6,000 domestic pigs enter the market each day, mostly supplied by three major breeding companies – M’s Pig ACMC (Cambodia) Co Ltd, CP Cambodia Co Ltd and Betagro (Cambodia) Co Ltd. The latter two are Thai-owned.

M’s Pig ACMC Cambodia general manager Ly Laville said authorities’ attentiveness to pig farming had been conducive to its growth and that breeders were delighted that local hogs had such a robust market and fetched reasonable prices.

But he expressed concern that some of that attention might be turned elsewhere post-Covid-19.

“During the Covid-19 epidemic, they [authorities] helped curb imports and promote domestic breeding, but once the disease is under control, there may be a significant increase in imports because there’ll be no more closed-off countries,” he said, calling for more consideration to the sector.

According to Laville, the three major local companies can supply more than 5,000 hogs per day.

Chan Sothea, manager of Hok Hieng company, which owns a farm with 700 pigs, admitted that the firm had not stepped up production, but he pointed out that pig farming had been gaining steam and that prices were broadly stable.

“Animal rearing will gain momentum going forward provided that not so many pigs are imported anymore and that we don’t have another outbreak,” he said.

Minister Veng Sakhon last week said commercial livestock output in the Kingdom this year to December 2 rose 17.61 per cent over the same time last year, which he said was propped up by government initiatives aimed at fuelling domestic agricultural production and increasing people’s incomes amid Covid-19.

With household and industrial operations ramping up, he said 49,423,558 head of cattle, pigs and poultry were logged from January 1-December 2, up from the 42,022,137 head posted in the corresponding period last year.

Sakhon revealed that there are currently 547 pig farms in the Kingdom with 1.33 million head in stock, which he said was up 15.90 per cent over the year-ago period.