PM urges action as pig prices fly high
Both consumers and vendors are bearing the brunt of rising pork prices arising from multiple factors including the fact that over half of the nation's farmers have already given up their pig farms due to overly high production costs.
As a result, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday instructed the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to speed up efforts to ease the problem from farm to table without interfering in market dynamics, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
Having risen for almost two straight weeks, pork prices on Tuesday stood at between 210 baht and 230 baht per kilogramme, up from about 150 baht per kg before they started escalating.
Mr Thanakorn said the higher prices of animal feed and drugs, which were needed in previous outbreaks of swine diseases, were the main reason most pig farmers decided to call it quits.
The shortage intensified just as demand began picking up when the new school term began and more restaurants and food stalls resumed operations after a long suspension due to the pandemic, he said.
"More than half of pig farmers have gone out of business due to rising losses," said Suntharaphon Singriwong, president of an association of swine farmers in the North.
Mr Suntharaphon said the prices of raw materials used in producing animal feed have risen dramatically.
"Early last year, when farmers had to sell their pigs for as little as 50 baht per kg, their operating costs rose as high as 80 baht per kg, which explains why so many went out of business," he said.
High pork prices are also hurting pork and food vendors.
Wutthichai Kokoetkiat, the 68-year-old owner of Khao Mu Daeng (rice with red pork) shop in Muang district of Chon Buri, said he had to raise his prices by 5 baht per dish when pork prices skyrocketed from about 120 baht to 220 baht per kg.
Plotchai Khwanyong, a pork vendor in Betong district of Yala, said his customers are constantly complaining about the rising pork prices, while he was worried about declining sales.
The Commerce Ministry's Internal Trade Department on Tuesday held a meeting with the Livestock Department, the Office of Agricultural Economics, and the Swine Raisers Association of Thailand to discuss the situation.
Wattanasak Sur-iam, director-general of the Internal Trade Department, said the pig and pork products development policy committee, known as the Pig Board, approved a raft of measures to boost the industry's confidence including vaccine development and access to soft loans.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit reportedly asked the Livestock Department to speed up the implementation of these measures.
The minister also ordered his department to extend its scheme of offering discounted pork to help reduce people's cost of living and take legal action against vendors found to be price gouging.
Pheu Thai MP for Phayao Wisuth Chainaroon called on the government to pay 150% compensation to swine farmers affected by the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF).
He accused the government of refusing to accept that ASF had been spreading in the country for three years, claiming instead that it was Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) which could be prevented by a vaccine.
Mr Wisuth said this caused the pig population to almost halve from 22 million to 12 million. If ASF is detected, all pigs within a 3km radius have to be culled, he said.
The MP said once the House of Representatives returns from the New Year break the party would submit a motion asking all parties to discuss solutions.