Auction boycott hits pork supply

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2007, 12:00am

Several small wet markets will have no fresh pork to sell today after a sudden decision by main supplier Ng Fung Hong to auction live pigs sent prices to new highs, prompting at least 30 distributors to boycott the sales.

Pork buyers said only suppliers to the big wet markets and big supermarket chains ParknShop and Wellcome were able to buy pork at such prices during the auction yesterday.

At Quarry Bay market, consumers had to pay HK$30 to HK$36 a catty (600 grams) - about HK$2 more than usual.

Ng Fung Hong raised wholesale prices on November 27 by an average of 8 per cent, to HK$13 a catty, or HK$21 a kg, because of 'surging mainland prices'. The crisis has been going on for at least two months. Prices of live pork have risen 40 per cent this year.

The company yesterday suddenly switched from a quota system of allocation to an auction process.

Pork buyers said auctions would drive prices sky-high and that not all buyers would be able to obtain stocks. At least 30 buyers warned they may continue the boycott today unless Ng Fung Hong reverses its policy.

The buyers, who met representatives of Ng Fung Hong last night, will resume talks with the company this morning.

Pork Traders' General Association vice-president Hui Wai-kin said the larger markets would probably have fresh pork for sale today, but some of the smaller markets would not.

While most of yesterday's supply - sold to a minority of buyers who did not join the boycott - was snapped up by the big supermarket chains and major meat retailers, vendors at smaller markets would have to rely on any surplus supplies from earlier auctions to meet demand, Mr Hui said.

A Food and Health Bureau spokesman assured consumers there would be adequate supplies. 'If there is a need, we would consider asking the mainland authorities to increase chilled pork supplies,' he said.

There were 4,170 live pigs supplied yesterday.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department met Ng Fung Hong officials to 'understand from the agent the reasons for a decrease in live pig supplies and to ask the agent to resolve the problem'.

The buyers' strike began at the Tsuen Wan wholesale pork market, where no transactions were made.

Ng Fung Hong last night said it would sell its stock according to the market situation to guarantee 'fair and just competition in the livestock market'.