Chinese pork prices shaking Far East markets

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's Ministry of Commerce says it will ensure the supply of pork despite rapidly rising prices in mainland China. The situation is causing concern and now HK's only fresh pork supplier has increased the wholesale price of pigmeat by a hefty seven percent.
calendar icon 31 May 2007
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A spokesman for the Ng Fung Hong company said the price was raised from HK$1,060 per 100 catties to HK$1,134. The industry estimates the increase to consumers will be around HK$2 a catty.

The adjustment has been made in response to the tightening market in China.

To ensure a constant daily supply of about 4,000 live pigs to Hong Kong, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Wang Xinpei said the central government will continue to monitor the supply in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The deputy chairman of the Pork Traders General Association of Hong Kong, Hui Wai-kin, said the higher prices in the mainland are the result of greater demand, the increased cost of rearing pigs and the appreciation of the yuan.

"I believe the chance of seeing the price of pork going down again is zero," Hui said.

Pressure for caterers
The president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, David Ng Tak-leung, said he does not think the 7 percent adjustment in the wholesale price will put any pressure on the catering industry.

"Some restaurants may transfer some of the increase to the patrons but most restaurants may choose to absorb it," Ng said.

"In fact, the industry has already felt the pressure as the price of pork this year is 20 percent more than it was two years ago, while most other ingredients such as rice and flour are up about 10 percent."

The manager of the Ka Wah Restaurant in Ngau Tau Kok, Peter Pang Siu-ming, said that the restaurant is considering raising the price of pork dishes, now averaging about HK$40, by HK$1.

A ParknShop spokesman said the supermarket chain is not increasing its prices at this stage but that the cost of food products imported from the mainland will be closely monitored.

Wellcome supermarket said it is monitoring the market.

Figures from China's Ministry of Agriculture show pork prices in the mainland were up 29.3 percent in April compared with a year ago.

In some cities, the price has almost doubled since the start of this month.

Disease outbreak to blame

According to the ministry, this is due to a significant drop in the supply of pigs caused by a swine fever outbreak in areas of Shandong, Henan and other pork-producing provinces.

The higher cost is also reportedly due to higher prices for corn and other major feeds for pigs.

The Chinese mainland last month supplied more than 4,000 pigs daily to the Hong Kong market.
The Ministry of Commerce is now encouraging neighbouring Guangdong Province to increase its supply to Hong Kong, to ensure supplies .

The ministry is also working closely with other government bodies to ensure the quality of pigs for the Hong Kong market is sustained.

China has a national reserve of pigs and pork to stem the rapid rise in prices, but has not started to use it yet, said ministry spokesman Wang Xinping .

"The use of reserves will be decided by the market. Related government bodies will coordinate and come to a decision in case of an emergency," he said.

The average wholesale price of pork in 36 major cities in China has risen 8.6 percent from last month, to 14.5 yuan ($1.88) per kg today. It has increased 43.1 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The price hike is due to an increase in the price of feed, and fewer pigs raised by farmers following a fall in pork prices during the past two years. An recent outbreak of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS/Blue Ear), is also attributable.

China's General Office of the State Council has urged local governments to ensure adequate pork supplies. The Ministry of Commerce has said that it will strengthen the supervision of prices and supplies and try to release timely market information.

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