Cattle imports rise amid deepening row

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2007, 12:00am

Live cattle imports rose to near-normal levels yesterday despite a deepening rift between dealers and sole mainland supplier Ng Fung Hong.

A total of 101 cattle were imported yesterday compared with fewer than 60 on average in the few days before.

Meanwhile, dealers expressed anger over a 'futile' meeting with Ng Fung Hong representatives, but said they had no plan to cut supplies.

The dealers suspended operations at Sheung Shui slaughterhouse for three days this month over what they say is a price increase and a supply shortage caused by the supplier.

'We demanded to see Ng Fung Hong's senior directors, but they refused to meet us,' said Chung Siu-kai, head of the Hong Kong Beef and Mutton Merchants' Association.

A request by the dealers to have government officials present in the meeting was also turned down by Ng Fung Hong, according to Mr Chung.

A Food and Health Bureau spokesman called on the dealers to refrain from radical action and continue co-operating with Ng Fung Hong in a calm manner.

'The agent [Ng Fung Hong] had been working very hard to narrow the price gap and assure adequate supply of live cattle to Hong Kong,' the spokesman said. 'We call on the agent to do its utmost to source more cattle for Hong Kong.'

The department offered to help beef retailers cope with their temporary difficulties as prices threatened to rise further.

'If beef retailers have operational difficulties because of a tight cattle supply, they may approach the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for temporary relief measures and assistance,' the spokesman said.

Ng Fung Hong raised the wholesale price of live cattle last month, pushing the market price of fresh beef up from HK$36 a catty (600 grams) to about HK$40.

The supplier's monopoly on live pig imports was broken last month.