Wholesale pork prices on the rise

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am

The wholesale price of live pigs has risen slightly due to a shortage in the supply from the mainland, but there are no plans to increase the retail price.

The supply of live pigs has dwindled to a trickle. There were none for sale in two abattoirs in the New Territories yesterday morning.

Pork traders had to wait until 3pm to bid for the 3,600 live pigs - a 20 per cent to 30 per cent drop in supply compared to 10 days ago.

The shortage has led Ng Fung Hong, which holds the city's monopoly on imports of live pigs, to impose a quota system under which each trader is allowed to buy only 70 per cent of their usual amount.

At the Tsuen Wan abattoir, yesterday's bidding took less than 30 minutes, despite traders having to pay more for each pig.

Hui Wai-kin, vice-president of the Hong Kong Pork Traders General Association, said the wholesale price of live pigs had gone up by about 12 per cent since May, to an average of HK$1,120 per 100 catties.

Mr Hui said the association had no plans to increase the retail price at this stage, but it might do so in the longer term if the wholesale price remained high.

'We don't want to pass the burden to the customers, so we hope the supply matter can be resolved in the short term,' he said.

'At this stage, I think the imposition of a quota system will help to stabilise the price.

'But what we really want is Ng Fung Hong to figure a way to increase the supply of live pigs into the city.'

In a written statement, Ng Fung Hong said the city's market had been affected by the big fluctuations in prices for mainland pigs.

Meanwhile, pork traders, representatives of the restaurant industry and a legislator have urged the government to break the monopoly in the fresh pork market.

'I believe at this stage, the government should communicate with Ng Fung Hong and discuss the reasons behind the supply shortage,' Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming said.

He added: 'Another thing is that the government should consider whether or not it is a good time to open the fresh pork market.'

Ng Tak-leung, president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trade, said restaurants would not be affected by the supply shortage in the short term.

But in the long term they may consider using chilled pork instead of fresh pork.

Local pork vendors and customers seemed unconcerned about a possible price rise.

Stella Fok, who spends HK$10 daily on fresh pork, said she didn't have much choice. 'I will not consider eating chilled pork as it has no taste. And I seldom eat beef. So the only meat left would be chicken and fresh pork. So I will still buy pork, even if the price increases,' she said.

Pork vendor Wu Chi-fai said the supply shortage and price increases were beyond the control of pork vendors.

'We can't say whether or not the business will be affected if the price of pork increases. We still have to run our business anyway,' Mr Wu said.