Beef prices rise as live supply dwindles

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2007, 12:00am

The retail price of fresh beef has been driven up to HK$40 per catty, as Ng Fung Hong's supply of live cattle to the city fell by 25 per cent yesterday.

Only 90 head of cattle were available for auction yesterday, compared with the usual 120. The company is the sole supplier of live cattle from the mainland. Kowloon Beef and Mutton Merchants Association said Ng Fung Hong had blamed the lack of cattle on traffic disruptions.

The reduction in the supply of live cattle came just a day after Ng Fung Hong announced it would put up wholesale beef prices, but the company did not say how much the increase would be.

On Saturday the company said 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'.

Committee member of the Kowloon Beef and Mutton Merchants Association Man Cheuk-Pui said the wholesale price of live cattle at the auction yesterday rose 10 per cent from HK$1,300 to HK$1,400 per 100 catties.

The retail price rose by HK$2 to HK$4 to as high as HK$40 per catty yesterday.

Stallholder Mr Ng, who declined to give his full name, from Man Wah Meat in a wet market in Jordan, said the retail price of beef and brisket had risen from HK$36 per catty last week to HK$40 yesterday after Ng Fung Hong put prices up on Saturday.

'Our turnover has dropped by around 10 to 20 per cent,' said Mr Ng. 'Summer has always been our low season as people buy less beef than in winter. The price rise has made the situation worse.'

Another shopkeeper, Mr Man, who declined to give his full name, from Kam Lung Wah Beef at Tai Ping Market in Quarry Bay, said he had raised the price of brisket from HK$28 a catty last week to HK$30 yesterday and beef shank from HK$36 a catty to HK$40.

He said his turnover had slumped by about 20 per cent yesterday.

The merchants' association accused Ng Fung Hong of being obsessed with making a profit.

'This is outrageous. There are 1.3 billion people in China and they are telling us they cannot find 130 live cattle for Hong Kong. They are clearly not doing their job well here,' Man Cheuk-Pui said.

'Ng Fung Hong told us the fall in supply was due to traffic disruption. But they always make up excuses. Today they say the supply was affected because of traffic problems and tomorrow they might say the whole road has been blown up.'

The fall in supply not only pushed up beef prices, it also infuriated about 20 beef wholesalers who quickly developed a quota system to avoid their usual bidding practice which would drive prices even higher.

The association called on the government to open up the market for importing live cattle, like the live pigs market, which was also monopolised by Ng Fung Hong.

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

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said it was monitoring the situation.