Li Chung Woon started his first hog farm here in the rural district of Tai Wai 40 years ago. When housing began to encroach, he moved to the border with mainland China. Now he has nowhere to go.
"The government is concerned about the handling of manure and sewage," said Li, 70, who will shut his 4,600 square-meter, or 50,000 square-foot, farm by year's end because he cannot afford to meet proposed hygiene standards. "I want to continue the business, but these stringent measures have deterred me."
Hong Kong's government is encouraging 90 percent of the city's hog farms to close, citing health risks as the population expands. That may leave the territory - already reliant on China for four-fifths of its live pork - more vulnerable to price swings as inflation and food scares shake the Chinese market.
Wholesale pork prices in China have surged 46 percent this year because of rising feed costs and disease. Hong Kong's live hog supply fell 35 percent below normal in July after a fresh outbreak of so-called blue ear virus in China.
"Hong Kong should keep some of its own pig farms to secure at least a short-term supply in case of crisis," said Chong Tai Leung, an economist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Shortages in China, the world's largest pork producer and consumer, have helped Chicago hog futures rise 16 percent this year as traders bet the country would import more U.S. meat.
Pig inventories at some Chinese farms have fallen as much as 50 percent, according to Lang Yanping, a livestock analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence, a commodity market researcher.
"Hong Kong can switch from the mainland to overseas" for the 4,500 live hogs it imports daily, said Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University in Hong Kong. "But living costs will rise significantly."
Like most Chinese societies, Hong Kong takes fresh pork seriously. The meat dangles, unrefrigerated, from hooks in street stalls and so-called wet markets. Some supermarkets offer fresh pork counters, where butchers cut to order.
Pigs slaughtered daily account for 42 percent of consumption, compared with 54 percent for frozen pork and 4 percent for chilled, according to the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
"Restaurants rely very much on fresh pork," said Simon Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades. Frozen meat is scorned for its poor taste, he said.
Such preferences are not just the preserve of older, more traditional clients.
"I go to the wet market or supermarket for fresh vegetables, fish and pork four days a week after work," said Mandy Tsui, 24, a researcher who cooks at home. "I don't like frozen food. It tastes like the smell of a fridge."
The Chinese Commerce Ministry moved to allay Hong Kong's supply concerns last month by ending the 50-year monopoly on wholesale live pigs of Hong Kong state-controlled Ng Fung Hong.
Ng Fung Hong tried to maintain a price lower than that on the mainland, hurting supplier profits and causing "difficulties in finding sources," according to a ministry statement in July.
The Hong Kong government has stepped up measures to tighten hygiene standards for farms and markets since about one million chickens were culled during an outbreak of bird flu in 1997. It is preparing a farming code with 59 rules governing safety, carcass handling and inspections.
Five minutes' drive from Li's piggery, about 80 luxury houses built two years ago sell for 3,600 Hong Kong dollars, or $460, a square foot, compared with 2,200 dollars on average in the district.
"Humans and hogs are fighting for space," said Lo Wing Lok, former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association and a government adviser on infectious diseases.
Blue ear disease, or porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome, killed 45,546 pigs in 25 Chinese provinces through July 22 and caused a further 42,728 to be culled, according to the Chinese Agriculture Ministry. The disease does not affect humans.
In 2005, at least 11 people in Hong Kong were infected with streptococcus suis, a pig-borne disease that killed 39 people in Sichuan province.
Hong Kong's 265 hog farmers raised 430,000 pigs last year. The 243 who have agreed to surrender their licenses will share as much as $120 million of compensation, according to the government.
Cheung Ka Shing, one farmer, is heading across the border to Guangdong province, where he plans to invest $38 million in new piggeries.
"Some government officials told us Guangdong will lack 20 million hogs a year," said Cheung, who is chairman of the Hong Kong Agriculture Special Zone Development Association.
Hong Kong's government is encouraging 90% of the city's hog farms to close down, saying that the growing population is exposed to health risks.
Li Chung Woon who 40 years ago, started his first hog farm in rural Hong Kong and has since moved to the border with mainland China, now has to shut his 50 000 square-foot farm by the end of the year because he cannot afford to meet the recommended hygiene standards.
"The government is concerned about the handling of manure and sewage," he says. "I want to continue the business, but these stringent measures have deterred me," he adds.
In case of a crisis
Hong Kong's live hog supply plummeted to 35% percent below normal in July after an outbreak of PRRS (blue-ear virus) in China.
Chong Tai Leung, an economist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said, "Hong Kong should keep some of its own pig farms to secure at least a short-term supply in case of crisis."
The closing down of hog farms may mean becoming reliant on already vulnerable China for four-fifths of its live pork.
Farming code to tighten safety
Since 1 million chickens were culled in 1997 due to an outbreak, Hong Kong set its sights on tightening hygiene standards for farms. It is currently preparing a farming code consisting of fifty-nine rules that will administer safety, carcass handling and inspections.