Traders close as beef runs out
Colleen Lee and Cheung Chi-fai
Meat retailers began restricting sales of their remaining stocks of beef after supplies were cut following a row between dealers and Ng Fung Hong, the sole supplier from the mainland.
Yesterday dealers suspended operations at the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse for three days, blaming Ng Fung Hong for the shortage and rising prices. As some restaurants prepared to remove beef from their menus, the mainland supplier said it hoped the dealers would act rationally as it worked to improve supplies. The government said supplies would be closely monitored.
The dealers are angry at what they say are reduced imports, claiming the quality of beef is poor despite Ng Fung Hong's recent price rises.
Dealers added that they would not resume trading until Ng Fung Hong demonstrated it could maintain sufficient imports. The strike forced many retailers, who largely support the dealers, to close their businesses temporarily.
Mr Mok, of Kam Lung Wah Beef at Tai Ping Market in Quarry Bay, ceased trading yesterday, as he had run out of stock. He is backing the dealers. 'Prices are getting higher while the cattle are still in short supply,' said Mr Mok, who pays HK$40,000 a month for his stall.
At the Kowloon City wet market, beef retailer Mr Li said his remaining stock would go to restaurants.
'Once the stock is sold out, we will close until the dealers and wholesalers reach an agreement,' he said, adding that the closure could cost him HK$10,000 over three days.
Chung Siu-kai, a director of the Hong Kong Beef and Mutton Merchants' Association, said he was disappointed that neither Ng Fung Hong nor the government had contacted the group.
Chow Tak, vice-chairman of the Kowloon Beef and Mutton Merchants Association, said they had not decided whether to extend their action beyond three days if Ng Fung Hong did not increase the supply. They want 130 cattle a day imported.
'We are acting rationally. They are the ones who are not rational. We sought to talk with them but they did not reply,' said Mr Chow.