The leading supermarket chains are optimistic they can begin importing chilled pork from the mainland as early as next week. Legislation enabling the imports will come into effect tomorrow. There are currently about 330 traders selling 'a limited supply' of chilled pork from Thailand. Negotiations with the mainland on chilled pork began after chilled chicken was first imported in 2002. A Food and Environmental Hygiene Department spokesman said they had received 12 applications since Tuesday by vendors wanting to sell chilled pork. He added the department would continue to monitor hygiene and food safety at the four approved facilities in Guangdong and Shenzhen. Wellcome food marketing manager Diane Chiu said chilled pork would be 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than fresh pork. 'With the low prices we expect a very strong market in Hong Kong,' Ms Chiu said, adding the meat would be sold in 264 of its shops. ParknShop spokeswoman Jasmine Hui Ching-man said she was delighted with her first impressions of the chilled pork and expected a big market. 'We believe the quality of chilled pork is comparable with to that of fresh pork. We already sell chilled pork from Thailand but the supply is very limited. 'But with the lower prices and increased supply we are quite confident it will be a big hit with customers,' she said, adding that the prices would also be about 20 to 30 per cent less than fresh pork. Tam Kwok-chu, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Pig Farm Association, said he was not worried about the competition but expressed reservations about the safety of the new arrangements. 'I don't think importing chilled pork will have a big impact on the market as Hong Kong people like to have fresh pork. Even though chilled pork is cheaper it's just three to four dollars for 500g, the difference is not that big,' Mr Tam said. 'But we do have concerns for some merchants who sell chilled pork as fresh pork, especially when the quality of mainland pork is worrying. We hope the government will regulate or have clear punishment for those merchants.' Meanwhile, reporters were given a tour of Dong Jin Frozen Meat Company in Huidong, Guangdong, established in 2003. Manager director He Hinqiang said he was confident the facility could cope with demand.