Trucks full of pigs trundled down the streets in the days leading up to Chinese New Year. Demand for honey-roasted pork soared more than tenfold, according to vendors on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh, and average pork prices in the city rose 10 to 15 percent, according to Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon.
The vendors and Mr. Sakhon both said the pork market continues to grow with the swelling middle class—demand for pork has climbed 23 percent in five years, the minister said.
But Cambodia’s pig farmers tell a different story. The holiday demand didn’t reach the heartland, they said. A crackdown on illegal pig exports from Vietnam into China has created an oversupply that is flowing into Cambodia, depressing prices, according to farmers.
“The price is at rock bottom,” said Mong Rotha, son of Mong Reththy, a businessman whose group operates a pig farm with about 10,000 sows near Sihanoukville. Pork had been at $1.75 per kg of live pig for three months, he said, down about 30 percent and the lowest he’d seen it go.
He said the price drop was likely driven by recent measures by China to clamp down on illegal live pig imports from Vietnam.
“Vietnam has an oversupply of pork now, and some is leaking out,” he said.
Mr. Rotha said his company reaped no profit from the holiday. “The price stayed the same all throughout January,” he said.
Chan Socheat, a representative of the Kandoul Doum Pigs Feeder Association in Kompong Speu province, also said he had seen no uptick in live pig prices in preparation for the holiday.
“It was a usual market,” he said.
Mr. Socheat said small-scale farmers had been decimated by drought and rising competition.
The situation was exacerbated by epidemics, Mr. Socheat said, citing an outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome that hit Cambodia in November.
“Companies—as soon as they know there’s an epidemic, they inject medicine and protect their animals,” he said. “But normal people can’t afford to.”
Meanwhile, the market continues to be flooded by imports from Vietnam and Thailand, he said, explaining that the local price had to follow the price set by imports.
Contacted on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said Cambodia had little choice but to import: Over 1,700 more pigs were consumed than produced on an average day last year.
“The people raising pigs always say the meat sells too cheap,” he added.