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Thai hog farmers protest U.S. imports


By RICHARD SMITH



For the Capital Press



Thailand's pork producers rallied June 11 in front of Government House, the seat of Thailand's government, against plans to import U.S. pork and pork offal.



The protesters presented 100 pig heads as part of a ritual to seek divine blessings for their cause, according to media reports. Some of the heads carried small U.S. flags with a picture of a hog in the middle and a phrase saying "U.S. Pork No Entry."



Swine Raisers Association president Surachai Sutthitham, who led the protest, said pork producers are not the only ones who will be affected if the Thai government yields to the influence of the U.S.



Sutthitham said after Vietnam opened its pork market to the U.S., half its local producers had to quit. Vietnamese farmers who grew crops used as pig feed, such as corn and cassava, also suffered, he said.



The U.S. government had pressed for Thailand to import U.S. pork as well as items that are not consumed by Americans, such as head, leg and entrails.



Local pork currently sells for $4.5 per kilo, while U.S. pork might sell for $3.3 U.S. per kilo if it came into the country, the association's latest report says. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds.



Singapore-based Meat Export Federation ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) director Sabrina Yin told Capital Press her office hopes and expects the Thai government to base its decisions on market access for U.S. and other imported meat products on international trade rules.



This includes a scientific risk assessment of U.S. pork's safety, Yin said.



"Thailand is a major livestock product exporting country like the U.S. and we believe it expects the same treatment of its products from its overseas markets," Yin said.



Thai import duties for pork imports are among the highest in Asia, Yin said.



"U.S. opportunities will be to complement local production in areas where domestic production of certain items is not sufficient, e.g. raw pork material for further processing," she said.



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