Fondness for foreign pork has local producers squealing for help
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP
A man hangs roasted pigs at a market in Phnom Penh. Cambodian pig farmers say they are concerned the lifting of a ban on pig imports last month could hurt the domestic industry due to consumers’ preference for imported pork.
government bid to lower pork prices by lifting a ban on imported pigs threatens to hurt Cambodia’s pork producers, an industry group has warned, saying prices for local sellers has fallen since meat from Thailand was allowed back on the market.
While restrictions remain on pork imported from Vietnam amid lingering fears over porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome, a viral infection that has struck pig farms in Cambodia’s eastern neighbor, tons of Thai pork has flooded the Kingdom’s markets since early last month.
The lifting of the ban came amid a supply crunch which saw pork selling for more than $5 per kilogram in some markets.
But without import restrictions, consumers would likely stop buying Cambodian pork in favor of the foreign meat, which is preferred for its taste despite being more expensive, said Sron Pov, deputy president of the Pig Feeding Association.
Cambodian pork currently retails for 800 to 1,000 riels less per kilogram than Thai pork.
“We are not opposed [to imports] but I would like to ask those institutions involved to control the amount allowed into the country,” Pov said.
“We realize that local pig farmers cannot supply enough to meet demand but if imports are allowed to exceed consumer demand it will hurt local pig farmers,” he added.
“The pigs from our farms are raised the natural way and the meat is tastier than imported pork. I’m left wondering why local consumers prefer imported pork, which is more expensive.”
Cambodians currently consume about 30 tons of pork each day – 25 percent below the national average before the ban was implemented in July. Roughly half of all pork is now being imported from Thailand, industry officials say.
Some pork producers also expressed fears that imported meat could bring diseases to Cambodia, wreaking havoc on local farms.
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” said Mon Mouch, who raises piglets in Kandal province.
“Farmers are despairing at the moment because there isn’t much to gain by raising pigs – it’s starting to look like a waste of time,” he said, adding that the price of livestock feed has not fallen alongside meat prices, further destabilizing the industry.
The government, meanwhile, is insistent that it has the long-term interests of Cambodian pig farmers at heart, and says allowing imports is only a stop-gap move that will be reversed once the domestic production increases to a level that ensures affordable pork.
“There is no need to be concerned about the importation of pigs. It is just a temporary measure to serve local demand,” said Nou Muth, undersecretary of state with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“Our policy is to encourage local farmers to raise more pigs so that we can reduce imports. We cannot depend on other countries forever,” he told the Post, urging the owners of the country’s nearly 300 pig farms to remain calm.