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Illegal imports hogging local market for pigs, say farmers

Pigs are inspected at a Mong Reththy feed mill in Preah Sihanouk province.
Pigs are inspected at a Mong Reththy feed mill in Preah Sihanouk province. Sam Rith

Illegal imports hogging local market for pigs, say farmers

Cambodian pig farmers are facing a mounting crisis as the price of pigs has continued to plummet, with many blaming local officials for allowing Vietnam to illegally import pigs across the border, representatives from a farmers association said at a press conference yesterday.

Speaking at the conference, Chet Phirum, deputy director of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association, said that farmers have been losing money as prices for pigs have fallen throughout the year.

“This is a very serious crisis for us, as many pig farmers have gone bankrupt and had to close their farms as a result of low prices and many remain in troubling debt,” he said. “The imports of pigs from Vietnam are exceeding the demand in the market, and it is damaging the market for local producers.”

While the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association has around 4,000 registered pig farmers, more than half of its members have had to suspend operations due to inability to cover costs of operations, he claimed.

Currently, family farmers are selling their pigs at about 5,500 riel ($1.37) per kilo, while small stakeholders are selling theirs for a slightly higher 6,000 riel ($1.50) per kilo and agribusinesses are selling for about 6,500 riel ($1.62). According to the association, all of these prices have been set below the breakeven point.

Run Veasna, a pig farmer from the Kandal Steung district in Kandal province, said yesterday that he was forced to shut down operations on his farm in July as a result of the poor prices.

“I have raised pigs since 2010, and I think this year is the most horrible for farmers who are raising pigs,” he said, adding that he had spent a total of $40,000 this year on his farming equipment in large part through a hefty bank loan. “It is hard to pay back the loan now. Sometimes I send my payments in late, and sometimes I ask the bank to postpone my repayment date.”

While the Ministry of Agriculture officially permits 1,250 pigs to be imported from Vietnam every day to meet local demand, representatives of pig farmers argued that the government was allowing as many as 2,000 to enter per day. Illegal smuggling of pigs across the border, which is unable to be quantified, has contributed to an even more saturated market.

Cambodians consume about 3.2 million pigs a year, or about 8,767 pigs per day, according to information from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Srun Peu, director of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association, said that the government should intervene quickly in order to revitalise the local pork industry by strictly regulating the numbers of imported pigs by establishing a quota system.

However, Sen Sovann, director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s department of animal health and production, vehemently denied that imports from Vietnam were exceedingly high or that there was a widespread swine smuggling racket.

“My officials spent two weeks investigating this issue, and they saw no evidence of it happening anywhere along the border,” he said. “If [the association] knows where to find these supposed smugglers, I would appreciate it if they would please share their evidence.”

He added that the continued high cost of operations was to blame for the inability of local pig farmers to remain profitable.

“I believe that this issue has been caused because of farmers not being able to decrease the high cost of operations, which remains much higher than in neighbouring countries,” he said.

“Too much money has been spent on feed, supplies and labour, and as a result, one farmer in our country can support 100 pigs for the same price as a farmer in another country can breed and feed 3,000.”

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