Fish prices tipped to rise 60pc today

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 November, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2006, 12:00am

Angry farmers have no plan to resume supply to the city

Prices for freshwater fish have been tipped to rise 60 per cent today because of the export halt by mainland producers - as Guangdong farmers say they have no idea when the trade will resume.

Guangdong food officials meanwhile said tests there had found no traces of the banned chemical malachite green and suggested tainted samples found in Hong Kong could have been smuggled.

Supplies have dwindled since the farmers - angry about being blamed for the contamination - cut off exports on Tuesday.

Tommy Hui Hon-man, of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Freshwater Fish Wholesale Association, said buyers would have to put up with less choice as well as higher prices. Local farmers usually supply only about 8 per cent of the market.

Mr Hui met Government Liaison Office officials yesterday to express concern but they did not give him a date when supply would resume.

In Guangdong, a spokesman for the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration said tests had found no malachite green in fish taken from farms in Shunde, a major supplier to Hong Kong.

The tests were done by the South China Test Centre for Green Labelling on six types of fish from 15 samples from Shunde fish farms on Monday, he said.

Xinhua quoted quarantine officials as saying mandarin fish that Hong Kong found to be tainted with malachite green might have been smuggled into the city.

Shunde Fishery Association secretary Chen Yaogen said farmers were not surprised when they heard the test results because they had always believed their products were not tainted.

'The Hong Kong government just followed the media to blow up the situation,' Mr Chen said.

Shunde fish farmer Zheng Shi ning , a member of Guangdong Fresh and Frozen Products Imports and Exports Association, which stopped the shipments, said: 'I do not know when we will export fish to Hong Kong. We are waiting for direction from the association.'

The uproar has also affected mainland business. Sales of mandarin fish have plunged to one to two tonnes a day from 12, said Guangzhou Huangsha Fish Market manager Guo Huawei . 'The price now is only 14 to 15 yuan per 500 grams, down by 25 per cent.'

Meanwhile, Hong Kong egg traders welcomed a policy proposed by a mainland food official two days ago requiring packaging to identify the producer of eggs and egg products and farm location.

'The move will help the Hong Kong authorities to trace the origins of the eggs if any irregularities arise again,' said Young Kam-yim, chief executive of Fung Kwai Tong Egg Merchants Association.

Legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said he would urge the government to review its handling of food safety issues in today's meeting of the food safety and environmental hygiene panel.