Checks will push up price of mainland eggs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am

Consumers to bear cost of new health certificates, traders say

The price of mainland eggs is expected to rise between 5 and 7 per cent when the first eggs imported under a new health inspection system go on sale today.

The first batch of 270,000 eggs with the new health certificates - required from January 1 after some eggs were found contaminated with a toxic Sudan Red dye - arrived yesterday from Hubei .

Traders said extra work was involved in obtaining the certificates and the cost would probably be passed on to the consumer.

'There was a lot of paper work to do and it took time to obtain the health certificate,' one trader said. 'There is no doubt we will pass the higher cost to the wholesalers who may pass it on to the retailers likewise. At the end, people will have to pay more for eggs in the market.'

Young Kam-yin, chief executive of the Fung Kwai Tong Egg Merchants' Association, expected the market price of each egg to rise by a few cents, reflecting the 5 to 7 per cent increase in the imported price.

'Since eggs are very cheap commodities. I don't think the increase will cause a big impact on customers. After the increase, mainland eggs will still be cheaper than those from other places such as Germany and the US.'

Before the measure, each mainland egg cost between 70 and 90 cents whereas a foreign egg was usually about HK$1 or more each.

Centre for Food Safety controller Mak Sin-ping said the government was considering legislation requiring health certificates for eggs from all countries and would submit a draft to the Legislative Council in three months.

Dr Mak said there was a need to make the certificates compulsory by law that should apply to all imported poultry eggs.

Since New Year's Day, all poultry eggs imported from the mainland have required health certificates issued by quarantine bureaus in provinces and municipalities. The importers have to submit the health certificates to customs officers at the border.

If the importers cannot show a health certificate to customs, the eggs will be kept for tests and allowed to go to market after the results are satisfactory.

'The current measures are only transitional,' Dr Mak said. 'The government is determined to enact legislation to step up the regulation of eggs as soon as possible. Health certificates can help trace the origin more efficiently if the eggs are found to be contaminated.'

The health certificate issued by the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau lists the egg farm, production date and batch number.