Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday appealed to Cambodians to eat pork nearly two weeks after the government imposed a ban on pig imports, which some agriculture experts said has frightened would-be consumers.
Speaking in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said that the outbreak of blue ear was not dangerous to humans and so people should continue eating pigs.
“Now the pork sales stay still. I feel pity for the pork vendors,” he said. “The pork is not contagious and I have been eating pork everyday.”
San Chanthet, president of Cambodian Pork Supply Association, said the ban on pig imports had decreased the supply but had not affected prices because the demand decreased due to consumers’ fear of blue ear.
“The people became afraid of eating pork due to the distribution of diseased pigs,” he said. “Now the number of pork consumers is decreasing because there are not many people eating pork.”
Curtis Hundley, chief of party of the USAID-funded MSME Project, said the blue ear outbreak has increased demand for chicken and fish.
“They think it’s not good because there have been many reports about diseased pigs,” he said. “All the reports have scared people into not eating pork.”
While slaughterhouses have been ordered not to accept diseased pigs, pigs with blue ear are not a danger if properly butchered and cooked, he said.
He said Cambodian pig stocks will be replenished in three or four months with profitable European-Cambodian, and American-Cambodian pig hybrids which have low fat and high meat proportions, unlike the Cambodian breed of pigs.
The current decrease in demand has not hurt pig farmers, he added.
“If it continues for three or four months it will be a big problem because, you will have more pigs on the market,” he said, adding that he doubted the fears would have lasting affects on the market.
Trai Bunlai, the veterinary specialist for the Cambodia Pig Raisers Association, said that the disease will not affect consumers’ health.
“This disease is not dangerous to humans but it has affected pig production,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)