Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday announced the lifting of a government ban on pig imports from Thailand and Vietnam, saying supply shortages had driven the price of pork too high.
The ban, instituted in August, was intended to protect consumers from a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and help develop the nation’s pig-farming sector, Hun Sen said.
But there is a high demand for pork, particularly before the Khmer New Year, and health officials have determined the outbreak has ended, Hun Sen added.
“The government can’t just make 5,000 pig-raisers happy but allow 5 million people to suffer,” the prime minister said during a speech in Kompong Cham province. “Let me say sorry to the local pig-raisers.”
Live pigs cost between 10,500 and 11,000 riel per kg this week, compared with just 4,000 riel per kg before the ban, said Srun Pov, first deputy president of the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association.
He added that pork prices rose from 9,000 riel per kg to 18,000 riel during the same time period,
In Cambodia, about 2,500 to 3,000 pigs are slaughtered each day, far short of the 4,000 a day the market demands, he said.
Despite the short supply, Srun Pov opposed lifting the ban on imports, saying it would create a public health risk and lower pig-raisers’ profits.
“I personally will abandon my pig farm because I probably can’t compete with imported pigs,” he said.
The price of pig feed has also more than doubled since the ban was enacted, shrinking pig farmer profits, he said.
Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the SRP, said that all the development in the pig-farming sector will be lost due to Hun Sen’s decision.
“To ban and lift the ban, back and forth, is not a way to help people,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang said lifting the ban could also encourage pig-smuggling from neighboring countries.
He also suggested that the government should increase the tax on pig imports.
Economist Sok Sina said Cambodia’s agreement with Asean prevents it from protecting domestic goods with tariffs higher than 5 percent.
Lifting the ban is an important part of maintaining a free market, he said.
Tim Vuthy, a pig-farmer and slaughterhouse owner in Kompong Cham province, said the end of the ban is a concern to all pig-farmers.
“We will only ask Samdech prime minister not to lift the pig ban, otherwise we will face bankruptcy,” he said.