A private sector task force set up by Cambodia’s pig farmers to monitor live swine imports and investigate reports of illicit smuggling has been disbanded after receiving a cold reception from government officials, the initiative’s leader said yesterday.
Mong Reththy, a prominent local businessman whose agro-industrial conglomerate operates the nation’s largest pig-breeding farm, said the task force was dissolved because the government had objected to its plan to independently investigate reports of swine smuggling.
“Our task force could not cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture because they claimed that we had no right to monitor smuggling,” he said. “They said that was the duty of a veterinarian, so we dissolved our group.”
The task force, formed by local pig farm owners in April in an effort to curb the falling domestic prices of live swine, had announced its intention to monitor smuggling activity and report any incidents of illegal trade to the relevant government authorities. It also threatened to publicise the names on Facebook of those found in violation of the law and to shame any government officials found to be supporting illicit activities.
Reththy said the dissolution of the task force was the latest blow to a sector that was on the verge of collapse.
“The ministry has shown to us that we [the private sector] have no idea about how to control pig smuggling in order to help local pig farmers from slowly collapsing,” he said sarcastically.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon told The Post yesterday that the government welcomes information provided by the private sector, but the task force would not be permitted to operate unless it formed a legal association.
“We did not deny permission to pig farmers to create a task force,” he said. “But first the pig farmers must form an official association that is in compliance with the law so that we can control their activities, instead of letting an unofficial task force create chaos.”
Sokhon added that while he had listened to Reththy’s pleas to help monitor imports, a private sector organisation had no right to impinge on the work of government officials carrying out their duties.
“We are trying to solve the problem for farmers,” he said. “But Mong Reththy is publicly judging my promises while he claims that our plans will not work because they require numerous ministries to coordinate.”
The minister added that if a legal pig farmer association can prove to the government that the domestic market is capable of supplying local demand the ministry would consider reducing the legal quota on live swine imports to 1,250 pigs per day.
“I have also suggested that the Ministry of Finance and Economy should raise the tax on pig imports in order to create fair competition,” he said. “But, we are in a free market and we can’t block some products without affecting others, especially those for export.”
Reththy confirmed yesterday that he was encouraging the private sector to register a pig farmers association.
“Then we will see if we can work with them,” he said.