Beef supply resumes after traders' boycott

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2005, 12:00am

Fresh beef will be back in the markets today after a snap boycott over the weekend as retailers joined wholesalers yesterday in criticising sole supplier Ng Fung Hong for monopolising the mainland trade into the city.

No fresh stocks were available yesterday as traders refused to buy from the meat supplier at the slaughterhouse in Sheung Shui on Saturday.

Their anger came after the cattle supply dropped to half of the usual daily 180 head. This in turn pushed up wholesale prices by more than 30 per cent.

Yesterday morning the supplier had provided 190 cattle to traders, slightly above the usual stock to meet Hong Kong's daily needs.

Wholesale prices of fresh beef rose from $1,200 to $1,500 per dan (50kg) over the weekend.

Market vendors complained they had to buy leftovers from Saturday due to the one-day snap boycott while business declined up to 70 per cent.

A Kennedy Town butcher shop supported the traders and called for an end to the monopoly. 'Ng Fung Hong should not monopolise the fresh beef market, the government should suggest having an open market,' he said.

Another retailer said the reduced supply was an attempt to raise prices rather than a result of transport problems as Ng Fung Hong had claimed.

'They provide fewer cattle, so the traders had to compete by paying a higher price. If we don't buy from them, then we have to close our shop. We have no choice,' he said.

The snap boycott had caused him to lose $2,000 in business so far. However, he dared not raise his price even as the wholesale price soared.

'There are fewer people eating beef now, so it is already difficult for us to operate. Increasing the price? [Business] would just get harder,' he said. 'Although the strike eases the traders' anger, we won't know whether [a supply shortage] will happen again.'

Ng Fung Hong and the Hong Kong Cattle Slaughter Trade Association were not available to comment yesterday.