Thursday, November 26, 2015   

Traders beef about new supply plan

Winnie Chong

Monday, February 04, 2013

The government is inclined to appoint two more importers to end Ng Fung Hong's monopoly in importing cattle.

But a source in the local beef industry said no company is likely to accept the invitation.

Health chief Ko Wing-man said fewer cattle are being slaughtered every day despite a stable supply from the mainland, which may be why the price of beef has been soaring.

The source said local officials have already informed Beijing of their observations and the proposal to open the market to two more importers.

Local operators, however, are not interested as only about 40 head of live cattle are imported into Hong Kong daily and the market is too small to sustain three importers.

The source added that even Ng Fung Hong is finding it hard to maintain business in the SAR. Ng Fung Hong, a subsidiary of China Resources Enterprise, is the sole mainland beef distributor and has raised wholesale prices several times over the past year.

A retailer said beef is very expensive, around HK$100 a catty, and that business has slumped.

"In the past, I bought half a cow a day," said the vendor at a beef stall in Shau Kei Wan. "Now, it's only a quarter."

She said the high prices are scaring consumers away but she put the blame on the import monopoly. "If the situation worsens we may have to close down," she said.

Another vendor at Sham Shui Po, Chow Kuen-tak, who is also a committee member of the Kowloon Beef and Mutton Merchant Association, said business is really ba

He said many people have switched to fish and chicken and that their only loyal patrons now are Muslims. He said he imports one to two cows daily with each costing more than HK$20,000 - up HK$5,000 from last year.

He said business has dropped by at least 30 percent and that he can earn only HK$6,000 to HK$7,000 a month.

A mainland supplier in Guangdong, Cheng Chi-choi, said domestic demand for beef is also high and he believes some mainland suppliers would rather sell the cows locally than trade at a fixed price with Ng Fung Hong.

"Some suppliers have even given up their licenses to export cattle to Hong Kong," the operator said.

Hong Kong Beef and Mutton Merchants' Association director Chung Siu- kai said the wholesale price of beef from Ng Fung Hong has soared 40 percent from the beginning of last year.

He quoted Ng Fung Hong as saying that beef fetched a better price in the mainland than in Hong Kong.

"The local beef industry is shrinking," Chung added.

Hui Wai-kin, chairman of the Hong Kong Pork Traders' General Association, believes prices can drop and that Ng Fung Hong should explain why it has not done so.

In 2009-11, between 70 and 80 cows were exported to Hong Kong each day. The supply began to dwindle - and by December it had dropped to just 61 daily.

Over the past few days it was down to just 45 cows.

Ko said a study of the market operation has begun, reiterating the government is open-minded to any suggestion that may help to improve the situation.

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