An increasing volume of pigs has recently been discovered being smuggled from Cambodia into southern Vietnam, sparking concerns over food safety as their meat does not undergo thorough quarantine.
Prices of domestic swine have skyrocketed to VND63,000-65,000 (US$2.71-2.8) per kilogram in southern Vietnamese provinces due to low supply, as farmers are hesitant to start raising their new herds following the nationwide spread of the African swine fever epidemic.
During the same period, a large number of hogs have been smuggled from Cambodia into the region along the two countries’ borderline.
All transactions were conducted late at night, with the livestock being transported in automobiles and trucks.
According to K., a merchant from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, swine smuggled from Cambodia cost only VND45,000 to 50,000 ($1.94-2.15) per kilogram, much cheaper than domestic hogs.
The sellers constantly change the locations where they would deliver the pigs to avoid being caught by local authorities, K. added.
Arriving at Vinh Gia Border Gate, which lies between Tri Ton District, An Giang Province and Cambodia’s Takeo Province, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters met another merchant named M. for more insights.
Pointing at an empty plot of land, M. explained that the area used to be where Vietnamese pigs were gathered before being exported to Cambodia.
After the outbreak of the ASF disease, it is now the place where pigs smuggled from Cambodia are gathered, he continued.
|A trader weighs a pig at the Vietnam-Cambodia border in An Giang Province. Photo: Tien Trinh / Tuoi Tre|
A lot of trucks were seen carrying pigs to the location that night. The transactions were carried out rapidly and the livestock were soon transported to local slaughterhouses.
Aside from Vinh Gia, such border gates as Long Binh in An Giang Province, Ha Tien in Kien Giang Province, Dinh Ba in Dong Thap Province, and Chau Mai in Long An Province are Cambodian sellers’ haunts for shipping their pigs, according to Vietnamese merchants.
“Most of the pigs originated in Thailand. The Cambodian sellers previously smuggled the livestock into their country before selling them to Vietnamese buyers,” said D., a trader from An Giang Province.
“We first arrived in Cambodia to check out the pigs and make payments, before they are delivered to a designated place.”
If local authorities intensify their inspection, the trade would enter a temporary break, D. elaborated.
In a recent case, a truck driven by Nguyen Huu Giap was caught transporting 50 pigs weighing nearly 4.7 metric tons in An Phu District, An Giang on October 26.
A test showed that the hogs were not infected with the ASF virus, but the provincial administration still requested that they be disposed of due to their unclear origin, said Tran Tien Hiep, head of the province’s department of veterinary medicine.
The driver admitted he had purchased the animals from a Cambodia merchant and was on his way to distribute them to slaughterhouses in the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City.
Authorities were not able to charge Giap for smuggling as he was not caught red-handed transporting the pigs from Cambodia into Vietnam.
He was only fined VND30 million ($1,292) for transporting swine without legitimate origin and quarantine certificates.
A total of 56 pigs were also confiscated in similar cases on October 30 and 31 in Chau Doc City, An Giang.
The provincial People’s Committee has ordered relevant agencies to tighten their inspection along border areas.