Cambodian pig farmers are hopeful that the government’s forthcoming six-month ban on frozen meat imports will stimulate the local animal husbandry industry, following years of financial losses for farmers due to domestic prices being unable to compete with imported frozen pork.

On January 12, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries jointly announced a temporary ban on the import of offal and frozen meat for six months.

“Temporary import suspension measures will be in effect from March 12 to September 12, 2024. However, this measure does not apply to qualified investment projects [QIPs] that import the aforementioned goods for use as production inputs for export,” stated the notification.

The decision was made in response to concerns raised by Cambodian livestock farmers about falling prices and the inability to compete with imported frozen meat, which has led some to discontinue their local meat supply activities.

The ban encompasses various frozen goods, including cattle and pig tongue, liver and other offal, chicken livers and offal, mechanically deboned or separated meat and animal intestines, bladders and stomachs. It excludes fresh, frozen, salted, dried and smoked fish.

Srun Pov, president of the Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA), told The Post on March 4 about the detrimental impact of illegal and unregulated imports of frozen pork products on domestic production. 

He noted that before the influx of imported frozen products, domestic animal husbandry had grown considerably following then-Prime Minister Hun Sen’s encouragement for farmers and investors to boost domestic production for food security and potential export.

He pointed out that joint measures by the commerce and agriculture ministries to temporarily ban importation of the products will undoubtedly aid in enhancing domestic husbandry and safeguarding consumer health.

“A six-month ban on the import of frozen meat products will positively impact domestic production. Besides improving the price of local products, it will also reduce health risks for consumers, as most imported frozen meat products lack quality control and a clear source,” Pov stated.

Imports halve domestic sales

Chorn Heng, who owns approximately 10,000 pig farms in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, said the effective and consistent enforcement of the inter-ministerial notice would significantly encourage and motivate local breeders to expand their efforts. 

Officials crack down on frozen pork in Phnom Penh in February 2023. CCF

He also highlighted the financial losses pig farmers have incurred due to the import of frozen meat.

“Illegal imports of frozen meat have gravely impacted local production, leading to severe losses for farmers and causing many to abandon their livelihoods. They also pose serious health risks to consumers due to substandard sources and storage,” he added.

Taing Mengkea, a pork distributor at Orussey Market in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district, observed that the presence of frozen pork over the past year had halved his sales, dropping from more than 50 heads a day to between 20 and 30. 

He said that an effective ban on frozen meat imports would likely boost local sales.

“Domestic pork sales have been consistently decreasing for over a year in both quantity and price, resulting in small farmers losing money and almost entirely abandoning the business,” he said.

Heng stressed that the current average price for live pigs on farms is about 8,000 riel ($1.97) per kilogramme, while production costs exceed 9,000 riel ($2.22). In contrast, he said the price of frozen pork products is considerably lower.

He noted that frozen pork is now widely available in almost all outlets and is commonly used in ceremonies and other events such as weddings due to its lower price. Regarding animal feed prices, he said there had not been significant changes in the last two to three years.

Mengkea said that on March 4, the price of locally distributed pork to resellers was about 12,000 riel ($2.96) per kg, compared to less than 10,000 riel ($2.46) for imported pork.

However, amidst their hopeful expectations of improvement, Pov pointed out a challenge: as the date for the temporary ban on imports draws near, importers are noticeably increasing their activity, with the majority of the imports entering through the Thai border.

“Current reports indicate that frozen meat importers are hastening to bring large quantities of frozen meat into the country for storage ahead of the ban’s implementation. It is believed that between 10 to 20 containers of frozen meat products are being imported daily. This surge is a strategic move by traders to stockpile for future sales in the Cambodian market,” he explained.

Pov noted that most of the imported frozen pork originates from European countries, and not all parts of the imported meat are consumed.