Butchers battle to stay in business as prices keep rising

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

Butchers have struggled to stay in business as the price of meat has shot up over the past few months. Some have dismissed staff to cut costs.

Mr Chan, owner of a beef stall in the Sun Chui Estate wet market in Tai Wai in the New Territories, said the rising prices had forced him to fire two staff members.

'I can only keep on one now because the running costs are too high,' he said.

Mr Chan blamed the problem on the government's lack of support for butchers. He said he could not pass on the higher wholesale prices to his customers because most lived on public housing estates.

'They would run away if the beef costs too much,' he said.

Mrs Lam, who runs a beef stall with her husband in the Quarry Bay municipal market, said: 'We dare not hire any staff.'

She complained they had only been able to buy a quarter of the meat they had hoped to obtain on Wednesday, while noting that some butchers had been turned away empty-handed. The shortage had affected their profits, she said, even though they had sold what meat they had for HK$44 a catty, HK$2 more than usual. 'Luckily we have lots of customers coming and we pay a very low rent for the stall,' Mrs Lam said.

Mr Kong, who has been selling beef in Marble Road, North Point, for 30 years, said he had enough meat left over from Wednesday but had dispensed with his usual assistant yesterday.

'We don't have new cattle coming in, so there isn't any reason to pay the helper HK$500 to stand here with nothing to do,' he said.

A butcher for 40 years, he has seen the business decline. 'Thirty years ago, there were 10 stalls on this road, but now there are only two.'

He said the city's sole importer of live cattle, Ng Fung Hong, was playing tricks. 'They import fewer cattle and make the buyers and shops pay more. They have put up the price at least five times in the past few months.'

A man selling pork echoed Mr Kong's complaint. A Mr Tam, who works for a butcher in the Java Road municipal market in North Point, was upset with Ng Fung Hong as well.

'After Ng Fung Hong adopted an auction for selling pigs, the cost per catty rose from HK$12.50 to HK$34. I truly doubt if my boss can earn anything after paying my salary and the running costs. I don't know what the government is doing. I just can't see a future for our industry,' he said.