Smugglers find it hard to bring home bacon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2007, 12:00am

Surging wholesale prices for fresh pork are not only hurting vendors and punishing the wallets of consumers, they are also driving smugglers out of the market.

Yuen Long Fresh Meat United Association chairman Mok Yiu-nam said the wholesale price of fresh pork had doubled in recent months and expensive business costs were eating up the profits that pork smugglers used to enjoy.

'The wholesale price for fresh pork on the mainland used to be HK$300 to HK$400 per 100 catties, but it has recently rocketed to HK$900 and even HK$1,000. The supply of pigs cannot even satisfy the demand of law-abiding wholesalers, so how can the illegal smugglers fight for pigs?' he said.

'Pig farmers only do business with smugglers when the supply is bigger than the demand, as they want to sell all their pigs which are ready for sale even at a cheaper price. That is why smuggled pork is sold at a cheaper price - to compete for customers.'

Mr Mok said the price of fresh pork had risen so much that smugglers found it too expensive because they also had to cover their expenses, such as transport, truck and container rental charges.

He also pointed out that summer was a low season for pork consumption as customers tended to eat less meat when the weather was hot.

The latest figures released by the Customs and Excise Department support Mr Mok's comments, showing a drop in the amount of smuggled pork seized by the department.

About 13,500kg of smuggled fresh pork was seized last year, while only 4,300kg was confiscated in the first six months this year.

Nearly 3,000kg of chilled pork was seized last year, compared with only 300kg in the first half of this year.

'The supply in Shenzhen and Guangdong is already very limited,' Mr Mok said.

The fresh meat industry estimates the wholesale price of fresh pork will rise in the next few months due to the appreciation of the yuan.

'We expect the wholesale price to go up by a further HK$100 which means a price of HK$1,100 to HK$1,200 per 100 catties by the end of this year. The retail price will increase by HK$2 per catty,' Mr Mok said.

A Customs and Excise Department spokesman said it would continue to work closely with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and exchange intelligence with the mainland authorities to combat pork smuggling.

Food department officers yesterday inspected some vendors, who claimed to sell fresh pork in Tsuen Wan, to see if they were in fact selling frozen pork. Officers seized pork from the stalls and asked stall operators to hand over receipts to prove the source of the meat.