An inter-ministerial meeting scheduled for December 19 is set to explore solutions for the plummeting domestic live pig prices seen in recent weeks, raising hopes among farmers for rates to return at the very least to sustainable levels.

Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth issued a letter, dated December 8, asking top officials of the commerce and agriculture ministries to attend and provide feedback at the meeting to remedy the live-hog price downtrend seen in, as a minimum, the past two months.

The letter noted that the meeting is to be held by the Economic and Financial Policy Committee (EFPC) General Secretariat and chaired by finance ministry secretary of state Phan Phalla, and comes in response to requests by the agriculture ministry and the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA).

A couple of weeks ago, CLRA president Srun Pov had mentioned that live pig prices nationwide had fallen sharply in recent months, to an average of about 7,000 riel ($1.70) or roughly half of what they had been a year earlier, and are lower than the average per-kg 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.

On December 11, Pov told The Post that although the national average live pig price has now edged back up to around 8,000 riel per kg, for either small- or large-scale farms to remain in businesses, this rate needs to stay above 10,000 riel.

He remarked that unregulated and illegal frozen pork imports have also been pushing down the prices of locally-raised pigs considerably, especially in recent months.

Pov suggested that government intervention could be crucial to guaranteeing the sustainability of the Cambodian pig production sector and that it can ensure 100 per cent food security domestically as well as export in fair amounts, as per government policy.

“I’m very pleased that the government is planning to help find solutions for local pig farmers, because if this situation continues, the sector could collapse entirely,” he said.

Nheb Savath, a farmer in Kandal province who currently raises around 100 hogs, put pig farmers’ losses on sales of the animals at “no less than 2,000 riel per kg”, estimating per-kg production costs at 9,500-10,000 riel.

Savath also blamed the plunge in prices to large volumes of frozen pork imports, a lot of which he evaluated as being of poor quality. And, a notable share of that, he claimed, comes from diseased pigs or those left dead for too long before processing.

“Government intervention is very important at this time, given how much raising the animals is costing us every day.

“Normally, when your pigs reach the selling age [at four or five months old], you have to sell them, because if you let them get bigger, they’ll be harder to pawn off,” he said.