Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ2: Arrangement for import of chilled beef from the Mainland

     Following is a question by the Hon Tommy Cheung and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (February 16):


     Some members of the trade have pointed out that it was originally thought that the introduction of mainland chilled beef to Hong Kong early this year would offer the public one more choice of lower-priced meat products and help counter inflation, but in the past one and a half months, the importer concerned imported a limited quantity of Mainland chilled beef on each consignment and only supplied the chilled beef to supermarkets and a few restaurants, which not only disappointed many members of the public, meat retailers and restaurants who could not purchase chilled beef, it has also, as at to date, failed to have the slightest alleviating effect on the price of fresh beef.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number of applications for import licences for chilled beef received by the authorities since the introduction of Mainland chilled beef; and among them, the number of importers and wholesale quantities involved; the number of applications which eventually succeeded in importing chilled beef and wholesale quantities involved, as well as the respective numbers of supermarkets and retail shops which have been supplied with chilled beef;

(b) whether it has looked into the reasons why only one chilled beef trader has obtained the approval of the Mainland authorities for exporting chilled beef to Hong Kong during the past one and a half months; if it has, of the reasons; if not, whether it will reflect to the Mainland authorities the keen local demand for chilled beef, with a view to expediting the relevant application process and increasing the relevant supply, so that chilled beef will be available for sale at more retail outlets in Hong Kong; and

(c) whether it knows the existing number of slaughtering and meat processing plants on the Mainland which have obtained approval for exporting chilled beef to Hong Kong; whether the number of such plants will be increased in future in order to increase the supply of beef to Hong Kong and alleviate the price of beef; if so, of the relevant timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



     Since Hong Kong is a city which relies heavily on imported food, the policy objective of the Government is to maintain an open market and to ensure food safety.  The major task of the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) is to ensure the safety of food for sale in Hong Kong.  To this end, we strive to facilitate the sale of food which meets hygiene standards from all over the world by formulating relevant hygiene standards and maintaining an open and competitive market.  Food price has always been determined by a free market.  It is the Government's responsibility to improve market transparency and enhance market efficiency so as to allow consumers to make a wise choice.

     The FHB has also been proactively broadening food sources with a view to diversifying food types.  For example, the FHB and the State Ministry of Commerce reached an agreement in 2007 that the market for supplying live pigs to Hong Kong should be opened up, and introduced two more live pig agents.  In the past few years, the supply of live pigs from the Mainland has remained stable with some 4,500 pigs imported into Hong Kong every day.  Moreover, starting from 2006, Mainland chilled pork has also been imported into Hong Kong.  Last year, about 18,200 tonnes of Mainland chilled pork was imported, representing an increase by 17% as compared with that in 2009.  As regards the supply of beef, the number of live cattle imported from the Mainland was around 28,000 heads last year, which was about the same as in 2009.  Starting from December 2010, local importers may import chilled beef from the Mainland.  This arrangement not only provides more food choices for the general public, but also helps maintain food prices at a reasonable and stable level.  Detailed response to various parts of the question is set out as follows:

(a) The FHB reached an agreement with the State General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) on the arrangements for the import of chilled beef from the Mainland into Hong Kong in early December last year.  Stringent control measures are implemented to ensure that imported chilled beef is safe for consumption.  The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been accepting applications for the import of chilled beef from the Mainland since December 7 last year.  Local importers may negotiate with the relevant Mainland enterprises direct and the Government does not set a quota for the amount of beef imports.

     As at February 14, 2011, the FEHD has received and approved 10 applications for import licence to import chilled beef from the Mainland, involving three import companies and the total weight of over 100 tonnes.  As at to date, only one company has imported chilled beef from the Mainland which was shipped in three consignments totalling around 56 tonnes.  We understand from the importer concerned that the first consignment of Mainland chilled beef was supplied to a major local supermarket chain whereas the second and the third consignments were supplied to two major local supermarket chains.

(b) The Government's policy is to ensure that food imported into Hong Kong meets relevant hygiene and safety standards.  Other supply arrangements and the relevant details are matters of commercial decisions of the market.  Since an agreement has been reached between the FHB and the AQSIQ on the arrangement for import of chilled beef from the Mainland and the requirement for the inspection and quarantine of chilled beef, local traders may negotiate and deal with the relevant Mainland enterprises direct for the import of chilled beef after applying to the FEHD for an import licence in accordance with the law.

     The FEHD has relayed to the AQSIQ the trade's keen demand for chilled beef from the Mainland and has received a positive response.  The AQSIQ has asked the inspection and quarantine authorities in the Mainland to recommend more chilled beef production enterprises.

(c) To ensure food safety, all chilled beef imported from the Mainland must come from processing plants registered for the processing and export of chilled beef under the AQSIQ.  These processing plants are recommended by the AQSIQ to the FEHD, with further on-site and audit inspections conducted by FEHD staff to ensure compliance with the relevant requirements before the chilled beef is exported to Hong Kong.  At present, the chilled beef processing plant on the Mainland eligible for exporting to Hong Kong is an enterprise in Changchun, Jilin Province, and is the largest company supplying chilled beef in the country.

     Given that the import of chilled beef from the Mainland is a new arrangement, we expect that it would take some time for the market to assess the supply and demand situation.  If local demand for Mainland chilled beef is on the rise, it is believed that under the lead of the market, more eligible processing plants in the Mainland will apply to the AQSIQ for processing and supplying chilled beef to Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:24


Print this page