Sector representatives say it’s time to reduce import quotas
We have to import pigs to keep prices stable on the market."
SURGING pig imports from Thailand have pushed down prices and led to the closure of hundreds of pig farms, sector representatives said Friday as they called for the government to slash import quotas.
Curtis Hundley, chief of party for USAID’s Cambodia MSME Strengthening Project, told a forum Friday that authorised imports had surged over the last two years as importers filled a daily import quota of 800 pigs.
“This surge, from an estimated 2,000 Thai pigs in 2007 to 300,000 in 2008 and 2009 has caused the closure of hundreds of swine businesses in Cambodia,” he said.
“These imports cost an estimated $35 million, which was sent to Thai producers. This is value that leaves Cambodia every year.”
Estimates did not include unregulated imports from Thailand and Vietnam.
Pig farmers attending the one-day pig-industry forum in Phnom Penh on Friday called for the government to cut import quotas by up to 50 percent to lower supply and raise pork prices, though the director general of Cambodia’s Animal Health and Production Department raised concerns over whether local producers could meet domestic supply.
“Why do we allow imports?” he said. “Because we recognised a daily shortage of pigs in the market when we were relying on local raisers, who don’t have the ability to raise enough pigs to meet current demand.”
He also said a lack of competition from abroad could force pig prices beyond the means of ordinary consumers.
“Pig raisers want to sell their pigs for a high price, and buyers want low prices. We have to import pigs to keep prices stable on the market,” he said.
Kampong Speu province pig farmer Prak Chandara called for the government to slash the daily quota in half to 400, saying current prices at market are higher than the costs incurred raising the pigs.
“If the government cuts the quota to 400 pigs per day, I think farmers will be happy to increase their production and we will have the ability to meet current demand,” he said.
Pork was retailing for 15,400 riels (US$3.69) per kilogram in and around Phnom Penh last Thursday according to Ministry of Commerce data, down 3.75 percent from January 1.
Hem Kosal, who has been raising pigs in Kampong Cham province since 1995, acknowledged that imports are needed but said the government needs to develop a flexible quota system and set import limits daily or weekly to meet temporary shortfalls.
“Imports have forced pig prices very low, and some family-run businesses have had to give up because they no longer earn enough to maintain their businesses,” he said. “If the government does not solve the problem for us, small pig-raisers like me will die. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t import at all, but we need to consider quotas more carefully.”
He acknowledged that imports outside the official quota system are a bigger concern.
Kampong Cham province slaughterhouse trader Ting Vothy called for the government to develop a province-by-province system of duties on pig imports that would take into account local supply and demand issues.
He also drew attention to the practice of charging unofficial fees to people transporting pigs at checkpoints set up along the road and called for government action to stamp out the practice.
Kao Phal reminded farmers to keep an eye out for swine flu, adding that the department has 14,329 animal health officers covering more than 13,000 villages nationwide.