Barbecued pork and pork broth are ‘comfort food’ to carnivorous Hong Kongers but they may have to dig deeper into their pockets over the festive weeks when meat sold to the city could continue to be in short supply.

Farmers in mainland China’s pig rearing sector have been rocked by the nationwide outbreak of African swine fever since August.

The Hong Kong government said four pig farms in central China have already suspended their live pig and pork supply to the city.

This has prompted local agents and resellers, who had already increased wholesale prices at the onset of the festive period, to seek more price hikes amid the shortage.

Prices of fresh pork have surged by a quarter since July and local traders now fear a further 10% rise. Wholesale prices have already climbed to HK$1,300 (US$166) per ton (1,000 kilograms).

The mainland supplies at least 4,700 live pigs to Hong Kong on a daily basis.

African swine fever is a contagious disease in hogs but not transferrable to humans, and poses no food safety risk, according to the city’s Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan.

She said the government would further step up its monitoring of the health status of live pig consignments from the mainland as well as inspecting health certificates and other documents at all boundary checkpoints.

The city’s Center for Food Safety also noted that pork and pork products would be safe for consumption as long as they were thoroughly cooked. It said all imported and local pigs must undergo ante-mortem and post-mortem checks in slaughterhouses before reaching the market.

Across the border, no fresh pork is on people’s dinner tables in the neighboring city of Zhuhai, where local authorities have cordoned off areas affected by swine fever from pig farms in adjacent areas for culling and disinfection.