Over-reliance on imported animals hurting local production, says industry
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
British pigs arrive in Phnom Penh in December.
ALACK of farmed pigs means Cambodia spends US$100 million a year importing live animals, said business tycoon Mong Reththy, president and CEO of the Mong Reththy Group (MRT Group) and co-chair of the agriculture and agro-industry working group.
"It will prove difficult to encourage farmers to go back to raising pigs unless we can find new breeding types that can help them breed pigs more quickly," he told the Post.
The government currently allows four private firms to import 800 pigs from Thailand daily for local consumption. Earlier this year Mong Reththy's company imported 600 Yorkshire pigs under a breeding program to sell piglets to local small-scale farmers.
"We are now getting ready to breed more piglets from the Yorkshire stock - they will be ready for sale at 4 months of age," Mong Reththy said. "The MRT Group will start selling 7,000 piglets to farmers in March 2010."
The amount that Cambodia spends in one year on importing live pigs. The pork industry has warned that local pig farmers may be a dying breed unless the government takes action.
The country has several large players in pig husbandry, including two from Thailand - the CP Group and the Betagro Group, which late last year announced plans to open a farm with 2,000 breeding pigs.
Earlier this month, Minister for Agriculture Chan Sarun said the government would ban all pig imports from Thailand if swine flu breaks out there. Mong Reththy said although swine flu was not present in Cambodia, pig farmers were being extremely careful about the threat.
"They are prioritising the health of their pigs because an outbreak could cause them to lose all of their livestock in a minute," he said.
But small-scale pig farmers have other concerns - shrinking profits. Srun Pov, first deputy president of the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association, said many smaller operators have closed due to the flood of illegally imported pigs.
"The members of our association now supply only 30 percent of the demand for pork, but in the past they supplied 60 percent," he said. "We struggle to make our voices heard, and the government should take action on this issue, otherwise it will be too late."
The government should take action ... otherwise it will be too late.
The Agriculture Ministry noted in a report last month that local pig production dropped from 2.4 million animals to 2.2 million between 2007 and 2008. It blamed the decrease on higher imports.
Cambodia consumes an estimated 7,000 pigs a day - including 1,600 in Phnom Penh, a ministry official said last year.
Srun Pov said the government recently granted his association the right to process two pigs per market per day, but he predicted the association would struggle to sell those pigs as markets are under pressure from private slaughterhouses to take their pigs instead.
"We hope this program will start next week as planned, so that local people can have good quality, healthy pork to eat," he said. "If it is successful, it will encourage local farmers to raise more pigs."