Food and agriculture

Hong Kong’s pork prices likely to rise as pig supplies from mainland China drop sharply due to swine fever outbreak

  • Numbers of pigs imported from across the border fell by half over six days around Christmas, though industry spokesman says this was due to a dip in demand
  • Price increases have so far been limited to individual shops, but one Michelin-starred restaurant has been forced to cut back on one of its pork liver dishes
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2018, 9:08am

Pork prices in Hong Kong are set to go up with one local Michelin-starred restaurant cutting back on one of its dishes as the number of mainland Chinese pig farms halting supplies to the city rose to 20 on Wednesday.

As the African swine fever outbreak swept the mainland, the number of pigs imported from across the border fell 51 per cent – from 4,326 on December 20 to 2,135 on December 26 – according to figures from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).

Chong Chung-ping, chairman of the Hong Kong Livestock Industry Association, said fewer pigs were being transported to the city mainly because demand dips during holidays.

“If Hong Kong is having a shortage of pigs, you can see an obvious increase in pork prices. But the price of pork remains steady, which means that the number of imported pigs are enough at the moment,” he said.

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But Hui Wai-kin, secretary general of the Pork Traders General Association of Hong Kong, cautioned that the mainland’s pig supply to the city could become unstable.

“Pork prices are certain to be high,” he said.

On Wednesday, the national General Administration of Customs revealed that 20 of 154 mainland farms that provide pigs to Hong Kong and Macau had stopped sending their animals across the border.

The two latest farms affected, located in Jiangxi province, were close to the contaminated area. There were 17 others in neighbouring Guangdong province and one in Hubei province.

The suspension came after the mainland reported at least 92 outbreaks of the fever – a viral infection which cannot pass to humans – at farms since it was first detected in Liaoning province in early August.

Cases were reported in 23 provinces or regions, resulting in a cull of more than 630,000 pigs, according to the China News Service, a state news agency.

Some shops might have raised it a bit. They were individual cases. But overall, we have kept the prices the same
Hui Wai-kin, Pork Traders General Association of Hong Kong

There have been no cases of the virus detected in Hong Kong. On Wednesday night, an FEHD spokesman said no licensed farm supplying the city had reported an infection.

Nonetheless, Hui said he could not tell when the cost of pork would rise because market prices had remained flat in recent days.

“Some shops might have raised it a bit. They were individual cases. But overall, we have kept the prices the same,” he said.

But some local restaurants have already felt the impact.

Mak Kwai-pui, manager at Tim Ho Wan, a restaurant regarded as serving the most affordable Michelin-starred dim sum in Hong Kong, said the supply of pork liver to its Sham Shui Po branch had been cut amid the outbreak.

African swine fever closes in on Hong Kong

He said he would normally have more than 20 catties (12kg) of pork liver delivered to the restaurant, but it had received only 11 or 12 catties on Wednesday.

Mak said he and his chefs had decided to save the pork liver for a more popular dish – pork liver rice noodle rolls.

“If there is any left over, then we will sell the [pork liver] siu mai. If not, we will just cut it,” he said.

He added that pork liver siu mai – a kind of popular Chinese dumpling – had sold out at 2pm on Wednesday.

Mak said its wholesale cost of pork had remained the same because its suppliers, under their contract, would need to give one or two month’s notice in advance of a price rise, so it would not be charging more for its dim sum.

Mainland customs officials reported on Tuesday that two batches of protein powder made using pork blood in Tianjin were found to have the virus.

But Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said its inspections had not found that any local pig farms used such products.