End beef monopoly too, say traders after importer raises prices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am

The company under fire for its monopoly on live-pig imports from the mainland and for recent pork price rises faced further criticism yesterday after it put up wholesale beef prices, causing retail prices to rise up to 10 per cent.

The company, Ng Fung Hong, is also the sole supplier of live cattle from the mainland.

On Friday it lost its monopoly on the handling of live pig imports with the introduction of Guangnan Hong as a second import agent. Guangnan Hong already had a nominal 20 per cent of the import market, but had allowed Ng Fung Hong to handle its share.

Following yesterday's beef price rises, a traders' association called on the government to open up the market for importing live cattle as well.

Ng Fung Hong, which had raised the price of live pigs by 10 per cent early last week, said yesterday that 'according to the current supply of live cattle on the mainland', the wholesale price would be adjusted 'immediately in order to meet the demand of the local market'.

It did not say by how much, but Chow Tak, vice-chairman of the Kowloon Beef and Mutton Merchants Association, said the wholesale price had increased from about HK$6,000 to HK$6,600 per head of cattle. Yesterday, the retail price of fresh beef cuts rose by between HK$3 and HK$6 per kg to between HK$57 and HK$66.

'We are a weak industry. We have no choice but to pass the burden on to consumers,' Mr Chow said.

He said Ng Fung Hong blamed the price on the strengthening yuan and the rising cost of animal feed.

The Food and Health Bureau yesterday said it was monitoring the situation.

A bureau spokesman said the price of imported live cows to Hong Kong was stable in the past year with the wholesale price at around HK$21 per kg.

'The wholesale price of live cows today is at HK$23.8 per kg, higher than that of July 20 and July 19 by 5 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively. We will closely monitor the situation.'

He did not comment on whether the beef supply market should be opened to more competition.

Meanwhile, the bureau said the supply of pigs from the mainland and locally rose to 4,500 yesterday, up from 4,310 pigs on Friday.

The average wholesale price range per kg was HK$19 to HK$19.3.

Higher steaks

This wholesale price of beef yesterday was HK$23.8 per kilo, a percentage increase from Friday of: 7.7%