The soaring prices of pork could stem from traders hogging supplies, said Deputy Agriculture Minister Prapat Pothasuthon.
Mr Prapat told reporters on Saturday the domestic prevalence of African swine fever (ASF) may be only partly to blame for the hike in pork prices. Some 350,000 piglets were raised in the country last year, he said. Today, a similar number of piglets is being farmed while the number of pigs slaughtered has not dropped. "It's interesting to ask why the pork prices keep going up," Mr Prapat said.
The answer could lie in pork supplies being hogged during the festive period from November to December last year, which drove up retail prices, he said.
Mr Prapat said the Agriculture Ministry was working with the Commerce Ministry to get to the bottom of the matter. As for the spread of ASF, the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) has set up local war-rooms to look for any signs of an outbreak in at-risk areas nationwide, he said.
Livestock officials will also help small-scale pig farmers step up disease prevention measures, he said. "Once ASF is detected, the department will move in to implement strict measures to contain it and minimise the impact on farmers," he said.
DLD director-general Sorawit Thanito said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed deep concern about the discovery of ASF in the country and held an urgent meeting on Friday of various agencies, including the DLD, to combat the disease.
After the meeting with the prime minister, Mr Sorawit chaired a remote meeting with heads of provincial livestock offices and ordered each office to form a war room to provide people with regular updates on the situation and report their handling of commercial pig movements and disease prevention.
The department will register pig farmers and take stock of the pork supply and distribution systems as well as the quantity destined for export, he said, adding that consumer demand for pork will also be measured.
Mr Sorawit said the DLD also was working with the Commerce Ministry to inspect cold storages and warehouses to prevent the hogging of pork supplies ahead of the Chinese New Year next month. The risk of ASF must be assessed before a farm is allowed to raise a new round of pigs. The disease has no vaccine or specific cure.