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PM takes firm stand on disease

PM takes firm stand on disease

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at a graduation ceremony at Koh Pich Centre in Phnom Penh yesterday.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered provincial authorities to suspend the importation of pigs from Vietnam and Thailand in response to an outbreak of diseases that experts said was on the verge of destroying the Cambodian swine industry.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, the premier said an outbreak in Thailand and Vietnam of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, also known as blue-ear, had spread to Cambodia in May, and posed a threat to public health.

“I would like to appeal to provincial authorities, especially provinces near the borders of Vietnam and Thailand, to suspend pig imports,” he said.
However, Hun Sen conceded that it would be impossible to completely stop the illegal importation of pigs from neighbouring countries.

“This order is not a violation of the World Trade Organisation, but it is a measurement to protect the animals’ lives and prevent infectious disease,” he said.

He also urged pig vendors not to take advantage of any resulting supply shortfall by raising prices.

Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said at a press conference yesterday that hundreds of pigs had died recently, but that not all had been afflicted with blue-ear. He attributed the outbreak to a recent decision by the Vietnamese government to order pig farmers to slaughter animals affected by the disease.

Instead of complying with that order, Vietnamese pig farmers “evacuated their pigs to Cambodia, the nearest place”, and a lack of regulations on imports fuelled the domestic spread of blue-ear, Chan Sarun said.

He said the government would not compensate farmers affected by the outbreak. Neither he nor Hun Sen said when the import ban would be lifted.

Curtis Hundley, chief of party at USAID’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise agency, said blue-ear had the potential to bring the pig industry to its knees, costing investors and farmers tens of millions of dollars.

“We’re talking somewhere between 1 or 2 million pigs, and each pig is worth about US$100 at market, so it’s a huge industry here,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said he welcomed the ban, and urged the government to retain it long enough for the industry to recover and draw investment.

“When the industry is destroyed like it is now, it’s going to take at least five months just to get the pigs ready for the market, and it’s going to take at least a year for this industry to recover,” he said.

During a similar outbreak in 2007, the government banned the importation of pigs from Thailand and Vietnam for eight months.

According to Global Trade Atlas, Thai swine exports to Cambodia rose from 2,273 pigs in 2007 to 866,199 in 2009, and were worth $45 million that year.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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