Tue, Mar 11, 2014 - Page 3 News List

COA completes probe on soaring pork prices

COLLUSION?The council said companies found to be hoarding pork or working together to drive up prices in the market may be fined based on the Fair Trade Act

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said it has submitted its investigation report on complaints about soaring pork prices — including information on five frozen meat companies suspected of hoarding the meat — to the Fair Trade Commission.

The outbreak of the epidemic porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) that began in October last year caused nearly 220,000 piglets to die of the viral disease.

Because of the epidemic, the council said earlier this year that pork might be in short supply in June or July, which could affect pork prices around the Dragon Boat Festival and Chungyuan Festival (中元, also known as the Ghost Festival).

However, pork prices have skyrocketed much earlier than expected, with prices in some markets surging past NT$80 per kilogram recently.

To stem the price increases, the council set up a “pork price stability team” earlier this month.

COA Deputy Minister Hu Hsing-hua (胡興華) said prices had risen from about NT$80 (US$2.65) per kilogram before the Lunar New Year holiday to about NT$83 per kilogram after the holiday.

Animal Husbandry Department Deputy Director Chu Ching-cheng (朱慶誠) said the council had finished inspecting 29 frozen meat companies across the nation and found that among the top 10 suppliers — which together account for about 87 percent of the market — five were suspected of irregular transactions.

Hu declined to name the companies, saying the council had submitted the results of its investigation — including the five companies and information gathered from 22 meat markets — to the commission for further investigation on whether the five colluded to drive up pork prices.

As for the frozen meat company reportedly found stocking more than 1,500 tonnes of pork, Chu said the company is among the five companies found to have conducted irregular transactions.

The council’s report also showed that the average price of pork at 22 meat markets yesterday was NT$80.88, dropping slightly from NT$81.80 on Saturday last week.

COA Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) said that companies found to be hoarding pork to drive up prices may be fined based on the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法).

Violators may be fined up to NT$25 million if it is proven that they have engaged in cartel-like behavior.

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