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Pig Imports Shake New, Worrisome Sector

Cambodian pig farming is increasingly changing from a family-owned business to big agricultural business.

This has led some to worry about the health of eating pork, but now farmers in this emerging sector are facing a new problem: the lifting of a government ban on the import of pigs.

Most farmers say that if they provide food they make themselves, it takes a lot of time to grow a pig, and even then the pig won't be that big, after eight months.

If, however, a pig is raised with food additives in a pig yard, farmers see large, 100-kilogram pigs in just five or six months.

Until the government lifted the import ban last week, these farmers were enjoying a boon in prices, and in pig size, two months sooner than they were used to.

Now, many farmers say they are exasperated and may leave the trade altogether.

Tan Yek Sun, a pig farmer in Kampong Cham province, told VOA Khmer recently she had been raising pigs for the past 10 years, about 400 in total.

Now, she said, pigs won't sell at a high price, thanks to competition from imports from abroad.

"Farmers will die, and they are going to stop raising pigs, because the price of pigs is decreasing," she said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 23.8 million pigs were raised by single families in 2007.

Meanwhile, there are about 287 large-scale pig farms, most of which use food additives, worrying experts.

Meng Kimse, an agricultural expert at the Center for Studies and Development of Cambodian Agriculture, said some additives, which consist of antibiotics and hormones, can be carcinogenic.

Despite such worries, Cambodians are unlikely to stop eating pork altogether.

"I am worried about the health effects of additives," said Keo Mom, a Phnom Penh housewife who eats pork daily. "But I have no choice but to buy pork."