April 7, 2004
Hong Kong Pork Traders Call For End In Monopoly Imports
Pork traders and catering business representatives yesterday urged the government to break the monopoly in Hong Kong's fresh pork market, after the sole importer of mainland pigs raised the wholesale price by 8 per cent on Saturday.
But government officials admit their hands are tied as the mainland government appointed one agent, Ng Fung Hong, to supply live pigs to Hong Kong.
Hui Wai-kin, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Pork Traders General Association, said pork traders bore the brunt after Ng Fung Hong raised the wholesale price of pork carcasses on Saturday by about $70 per 100 catties. He estimated that the traders would need to raise the price of cut meat by $1.50 or $2 per catty to cover the price increase.
However, he added that most of the traders would not do so for fear of losing customers to supermarkets. "We can't afford a cut-throat price competition. We have already lost a lot of businesses since supermarkets started to sell fresh pork a few years ago," he said.
The two supermarket giants, Wellcome and ParknShop, did not plan to raise their retail prices of fresh pork. The spokeswomen for both supermarkets said they would monitor the situation.
Ng Fung Hong declined to comment on the price rise. But it is believed to be linked to an increase in feed prices.
However, Mr Hui said the magnitude of the increase was not justified, adding that the government should help introduce more competition to end Ng Fung Hong's monopoly.
"We understand that the prices of pig feed have been raised. But the price mechanism could be a lot more transparent and should be market-oriented," he said.
"Some of our traders have tried to import fresh pork directly from the mainland, bypassing Ng Fung Hong. But at this moment, none of us has got any approval documents."
David Ng Tak-leung, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades, said it would be another blow to restaurants if pork prices were increased.
"I don't see why we can't introduce new competitors. We used to have only one importer of rice from the mainland. Now, we have more than one. We advocate competition because it is best for us and also customers."
A study by the government's Competition Policy Advisory Group (Compag), under the Economic Development and Labour Bureau in December 2002 on the pork market concluded that Hong Kong people still had enough choices.
The Compag report stated that meat from freshly slaughtered pigs, with a market share of 51 per cent, was not the sole type of pork available in Hong Kong.
The report noted that chilled and frozen pork accounted for a market share of 3 and 46 per cent, respectively.
"Although Ng Fung Hong does not face any competition as an importer of mainland pigs, it does face competition from local pigs, chilled pork and frozen pork," it said.
The Consumer Council, which is also a Compag member, has received no complaints about the recent price rise.
A Compag spokesman said it might conduct another study.
Yesterday, the retail price of fresh pork was about $22 a catty.