‘Brazilian beef ban may hit HK diners in the pocket’

A restaurant industry leader warned on Sunday that Brazil’s decision to ban beef exports to China could see prices here rise by 30 percent or more.

Brazil, which is the biggest source of beef for the SAR, announced the ban after detecting two cases of mad cow disease at separate processing plants.

Simon Wong, who chairs the Federation of Restaurants, said the beef supply in Hong Kong will be disrupted if the suspension lasts longer than two months.

“At the moment, Hong Kong might still have some stock for about two months. Afterwards, we are not able to sustain this stock level,” he told RTHK.

He said beef importers may turn to suppliers from Australia, Europe or South East Asia, but they may not be able to completely replenish stock levels.

“If… there is no way that we can have enough stock for the restaurant trade, the price might go up 30 percent or even more.”

Wong said a shortage of supplies would have the biggest impact for smaller restaurants – like Chinese restaurants and cha chaan teng.

“Most of them cannot afford to import expensive or quality beef from, for example, the United States or even Europe, and Brazil has been known for exporting beef at a very competitive price level… it would affect this kind of restaurants very much.”

The suspension, announced earlier on Sunday, is based on an animal health pact between Beijing and Brasilia, according to Brazil’s agriculture ministry. The ministry said it would allow Beijing time to determine how to respond to the situation.