Business brisk despite up to 50 per cent jump in pork prices as Hong Kong butchers resume trade following African swine fever case

Linda Lew
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Business brisk despite up to 50 per cent jump in pork prices as Hong Kong butchers resume trade following African swine fever case

Butchers in Hong Kong raised the price of fresh pork by as much as 50 per cent on Monday as slaughterhouses reopened from a week’s cleansing over African swine fever fears.

They increased their prices in response to the cost of wholesale pigs doubling.

In Causeway Bay’s Bowrington Road Market, Tung Po Food’s Mr Lee complained about the loss of business as his butchery had to close last week because of the lack of supplies.

“I usually make several thousand dollars a day. But I had to close last week. I lost money while I slept,” he said.

Tung Po Food raised its pork prices by between 40 and 50 per cent to make up for the higher cost. Lee said price rises of 10 to 20 per cent at some competitors were not realistic.

But some butchers were unwilling to raise their prices too much for fear of losing sales.

“I have only raised prices by a bit, otherwise customers won’t buy,” said Cheng Wai-kit of Tat Chang Meats in the same market.

Cheng was selling 600 grams of pork ribs for HK$80 (US$10) to HK$90, up from HK$70 previously.

Their fears might have been unfounded as customers continued to buy the staple meat.

“The price is more expensive but I need to buy pork to feed my family,” shopper Susan Hsui said.

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Hsui, who was in her 30s and shopping with her son in a stroller, bought more than 1.2kg of pork for HK$195, which she estimated would be enough to last her family for two days.

According to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the average auction price of live pigs on Sunday after abattoirs resumed business was HK$2,653 per tam, a traditional Chinese measurement equivalent to about 60kg. That was double the average price at the start of the month.

Hui Wai-kin from the Pork Traders General Association expected the price to return to normal after two to three days.

“When supplies have returned to normal, auction prices in the market will be more stable and drop,” Hui said.

He said it was understandable prices had doubled, as supplies of mainland pigs for slaughtering on Sunday were only about a quarter of the normal level.

Lam Wing-yuen, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Livestock Industry Association, which represents local pig farms, said the latest wholesale price of local hogs had soared by as much as 30 per cent.

“As the cost of mainland pigs has doubled … some vendors who used to buy them will turn to local farms,” Lam said.

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He said local pigs were still cheaper than mainland ones. Local pigs were sold at about HK$2,000 to HK$2,200 per tam, compared with about HK$3,200 per tam for mainland ones.

According to information on the department’s website, 2,540 mainland pigs and 1,031 local ones were supplied to the city’s slaughterhouses on Monday.

Another 3,690 mainland pigs and 100 local pigs were expected to be supplied to the abattoirs on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s first case of African swine fever, which sparked a cull of more than 6,500 pigs and the closure of two abattoirs, was confirmed on May 10. The disease, which has swept across the mainland, is deadly for pigs but not harmful to humans.

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