Farmers are dusting off their pig pens as local pig and pork prices have skyrocketed in the month following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ban on the import of pigs and pork meat from foreign countries, officials and farmers said.
The ban, which government officials said was issued in response to livestock diseases abroad as well as the need to protect and develop the local pig farming industry, was issued Aug 13.
Last year, pig farmers complained universally of plummeting prices due to smuggling.
Khov Meng Heang, a 36-year-old farmer currently raising 500 pigs in Kompong Cham province’s Prey Chhor district, said she couldn’t be more pleased with her recent good fortune.
“This is a historical increase in the price of pigs since the 1990s,” she said, estimating that her family could make a few thousand dollars in the next three or four months as a result of the import ban.
Last year, she said that the selling price for a pig dropped to 3,900 riel—less than a dollar—per kilo, which was less than it cost to raise and accommodate her pigs.
“Today, I sell for 7,200 riel,” she said.
“If Vietnamese pigs are allowed to be smuggled in, the poverty of the farmers in this village will return,” she said.
Srun Pov, first deputy president for the Cambodian Pig Raisers Association, said Tuesday that pig farmers welcome the new import ban as a boon to business and people’s health.
He said the selling price of live pigs had already risen to a high of 7,500 riel per kilo by early September from a low of 3,800 riel in early August.
“Farmers are starting to raise pigs again after 90 percent of them had closed their pig farms,” he said.
CPRA, which was formed in 2003 and comprises 1,000 farmers, is now concerned that there are not enough piglets to feed the new demand, he said.
“We have a good price of pigs in local markets, but farmers don’t have enough babies,” he said, adding that the healthy piglets sold by Thai-owned CP Cambodia Company are too expensive at $40.
A CP Cambodia manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said his company sells about 1,000 piglets per month, but they are falling short of the demand posed by eager farmers.
He said a 10-kg piglet goes for $37 and if it eats properly, farmers will have a 110 kg hog on their hands in about four months.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said he recently allowed farmers in Kompong Speu province to import 10,000 piglets from Thailand and that the ministry would consider specific requests for pig imports on a case by case basis.
“Our aim is to supply enough for the need of the farmers,” he said, adding that the ministry would like to see other aspects of the pig farming industry localize as well.
“We want local material to be used for processing animal food rather than importing from outside,” he said.
Sam Bona, a US Agency for International Development value chain coordinator who advises farmers in several provinces, said that farmers in Kompong Speu, Kandal, Prey Veng and Kompong Cham provinces have begun to open small- to medium-scale pig farms of up to 500 pigs in the wake of the ban.
“Farmers are so excited now because the price of pigs has increased nearly 40 percent,” he said, adding that other farmers are benefiting as well, such as those who grow corn and cassava for pig feed.
The Phnom Penh market demands 1,000 pigs slaughtered on a daily basis, with the rest of the country requiring an additional 2,000, he added.
Shopping at Phsar Kandal in Phnom Penh, Heng Liza, 28, said she’s never seen the price of pork be so high.
“I am not happy at all,” she said, adding that pork is being sold at 15,000 riel per kg, which is an increase of about $1 (4,000 riel) from last month.
“Probably, I’ll no longer eat pork,” she said. “Maybe I’ll eat chicken instead.”