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Outbreak turns consumers away from pork

Outbreak turns consumers away from pork

Pork sales at local markets have taken a hit following the recent outbreak of blue-ear pig disease as fears have spread among consumers that the meat is not fit for human consumption, pork vendors said yesterday.

First identified in Siem Reap in mid-August, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, known as blue-ear pig disease, has infected more than 4,000 pigs, with over 1,200 needing to be culled.

The government said yesterday, however, that despite spreading to three more provinces, the outbreak is now under control. Less than 200 pigs are now carrying the infection, thanks to treatment from veterinarians sent to the affected farms, said Tan Phannara, chief of the Animal Health Office at the Agriculture Ministry.

“We are now controlling it, it did not impact the market demand because this kind of disease can be cured,” he said.

Seeking to allay consumer’s fears, Phannara added that the disease is not transferable to humans.

While the outbreak was not large enough to cause a supply shortage, Chan Sothea, the owner of Hok Hieng Co Ltd, a pork distributor to several of the larger markets in Phnom Penh, said that shoppers have stayed away from pork since the blue-ear pig disease was first reported.

“The amount of pork meat demanded at the market is lower than normal, and so is the price,” he said.

Some farmers were offloading pigs at a cheaper rate fearing that the disease would spread, Sothea said. While others whose swine had already been infected were selling their pigs to the market for even less, he added.

Keo Sokleap, a pork vendor at O’Russey Market, said her sales had dropped by 70 per cent since the outbreak and she had called in a veterinarian to check her meat each day to reassure customers at the market.

“Most buyers are nervous of the blue-ear disease so they have reduced eating pork meat to protect their health” she said.

Vendors at the Old Market in Siem Reap also reported a downturn in sales yesterday.

“Most buyers feel scared of the health impact because they do not understand much about the disease,” said Seng Kimhout, a pork vendor at the Old Market.

Kimhout said that he had lowered his prices hoping to increase sales, but it was having no impact.

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