Higher pork prices for Hongkongers during Dragon Boat Festival as Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse reopens following swine fever shutdown

07-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Pork prices at Hong Kong’s markets are expected to more than double on Friday at a time when the meat is in high demand during the Dragon Boat Festival, after the city’s main slaughterhouse reopened following a shutdown due to African swine fever.

Last Friday night, the government closed the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse for the second time in a month. The step was taken after health authorities detected the virus in a dead pig at the government-owned slaughterhouse. The animal had been imported from Meizhou in the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong.

Thousands of pigs were culled. The slaughterhouse was then cleansed and disinfected. It was finally reopened on Thursday morning.

But traders complained on Thursday that fewer pigs were being imported to Hong Kong than usual. According to them, only about 2,200 pigs passed through the abattoirs on Thursday, about 1,200 of them from the mainland, plus another 1,000 pigs from local farms. The privately owned Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse remained open during the past week, allowing a small number of butcher stalls in markets to stay open.

Before the closure of the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse, about 4,000 to 5,000 local and mainland pigs would be available in Hong Kong each day.

But the pigs will not be available in markets and shops until Friday because of the time it takes to slaughter them.

“Pig supplies from the mainland will gradually return to normal,” said Hui Wai-kin, head of the Pork Traders general Association. Local and mainland pig traders needed time to get the business back on track after the suspension on the first day and thus only about 1,200 mainland pigs would be imported, he added.

Another reason for the drop in supply was the frustrations of mainland traders at Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse being suddenly closed last week.

At Smithfield Market in Kennedy Town, all eight butcher stalls were closed on Thursday.

Butcher Simon Leung was however at his stall to prepare for the pigs that would arrive on Friday.

He said the pork prices charged by the suppliers have more than doubled. For 100kg of pork, the suppliers are now charging about HK$3,000 (US$383). He decided to buy only 50 to 100kg, half of what he normally gets from the suppliers.

“I will lose money if no one is buying… Seriously, I might change my profession,” he said. “I have been idle for so many days. I just cannot afford to do nothing all day.”

Another butcher stall nearby remained open in recent days, as the store buys porks from the Tsuen Wan slaughterhouse.

The butcher, surnamed Lau, said the pork prices from his suppliers had more than tripled to HK$4,000 per 100kg. He had no choice but to almost double his selling price, raising a catty of pork from HK$68 to HK$128.

Lau complained that when the slaughterhouse was shut down last month, the government did not compensate butchers for the “significant” loss of business they suffered. Rent for his stall was more than HK$100,000 a month.

After spending HK$98 on a bag of pork for the Dragon Boat Festival, customer Tong Pui-shuen was shocked and said: “The price is insane!”

Under a new arrangement implemented on Thursday, all live pigs will be slaughtered within 24 hours of arrival, so the facilities can be cleansed and disinfected thoroughly. The disease is not harmful to humans, but deadly to pigs.

Ling Wai-yip, from Fresh Meat United, a traders’ group, said that if any pig was found to have African swine fever again, the government should help ensure there would still be enough pigs imported to Hong Kong.

He added that officials should hold regular meetings with representatives from the pig industry to monitor the progress of the new arrangement stipulating the speedy slaughter of pigs.



Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post