Pork price crash in Thailand due to rampant smuggling

PHOTO: via ABC

A nationwide crash in pork prices, sparked by rampant smuggling, is wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of hog farmers throughout Thailand. The illegal import of pork not only undermines local farmers but also poses a significant public health risk due to the potential for contamination.

The Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, Chaiya Phromma, addressed the issue in a conversation with the Bangkok Post. He affirmed the government’s determination to tackle the smuggling issue head-on to safeguard the farmers’ income and protect the public from tainted produce.

The smuggling issue was exacerbated last year when the local market experienced a severe pork shortage due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak. Opportunistic companies took advantage of the high demand and began importing pork illegally from abroad, despite Thailand’s policy against such actions, aimed at fostering domestic pig farming.

The current administration, under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, launched an aggressive crackdown resulting in the confiscation of 161 shipping containers at Laem Chabang Port earlier this year. The containers contained 4,025 tonnes of pork, valued at around 483 million baht.

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Investigations have pointed to a wide array of culprits, from employees of shipping and import companies to investors and wholesalers. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is currently probing the matter.

The DSI determined that the smuggled pork originated from various parts of Europe and Brazil. It is believed that these products were initially intended for destruction after exceeding their storage shelf-life in supermarkets. Instead, the so-called expired pork found its way into developing markets, including Thailand.

Smuggling activities

These smuggling activities have led to an estimated 2,000 shipping containers being imported over the past year, leading to a sharp decline in domestic pork prices. The Ministry of Finance is working alongside other agencies to inspect the tax records of the implicated companies and assess the state’s loss due to falsified customs declarations.

The seized pork was destroyed in September via incineration or landfill disposal. However, this method sparked protests from local communities over potential health and environmental impacts. The military is now assisting in the preparation of a disposal site.

The DSI is determined to uncover the orchestrators of this massive smuggling operation. The investigation is complex, as it involves a national crime syndicate with substantial financial backing. Legal action will be pursued against any politicians found to be involved.

One major retailer, Makro, is under investigation. Despite this, all invoices and documents related to their imported pork have been found. They had previously sourced pork intestines from a company whose owner is now facing smuggling charges but terminated the contract over quality concerns.

The government plans to offer soft loans to local pig farmers to help them revive their businesses. Additionally, the ministry aims to stabilise the price of live pigs in the market by intensifying the crackdown on pork smuggling.

The Department of Livestock Development is also introducing a series of good practices for livestock farmers to ensure food safety. The ministry is exploring opportunities for pig farmers to sell their livestock in under-served markets as an alternative income source.

At present, the agriculture sector contributes approximately 8.5% to Thailand’s GDP, with less than 20% coming from livestock, reported Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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