Diners may have to dig deeper into their pockets if they want to tuck into quality beef as the territory's sole fresh beef distributor, Ng Fung Hong, yesterday announced a 4.5 per cent increase in the wholesale price of marbled beef.
However, the increase, which comes into effect today, is accompanied by a rare, slight drop in the wholesale price of ordinary fresh beef.
Meat traders yesterday criticised the 0.9 per cent price cut as nominal and said it would have no impact on the retail prices.
In a brief written statement yesterday, Ng Fung Hong said that from today, the wholesale price for marbled beef would go up from HK$4,490 a picul (about 61kg) to $4,690 a picul. And the wholesale price for ordinary beef would go down from $4,105 a picul to $4,070.
In the statement, the company said: "The price adjustments are in response to the prevailing market situations, including supply." It did not elaborate.
Fresh Beef Traders Alliance convenor Hui Wai-kin said the price reduction for ordinary beef was too small, as more was sold this time of year. "The weather is getting warm and the demand for marbled beef, which is popular with hotpot meals, is not as big as it is during winter time," said Hui. "We do not expect much impact on demand."
Hui's alliance has called on the government to break Ng Fung Hong's monopoly, which it blames for the price rise.
Late last year the government vowed to find out why beef prices kept rising. Results were expected in the middle of the year.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said the government would contact Ng Fung Hong today for more information about the latest price rise.
While Ng Fung Hong is the only authorised distributor of wholesale fresh beef, another importer, Guangnan Hong, accounts for about 11 per cent of the supply. Guangnan Hong imports cattle from Guangdong. Ng Fung Hong gets its supplies from as far away as Inner Mongolia .
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department data put beef consumption in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2011 at about 77 to 79 head of cattle a day.