Shenzhen authorities confirmed that at least 5 cross-boundary goods drivers were tested positive for COVID-19 on the 6th of February.
Three of the drivers were tested positive after returning to Hong Kong while the other two returned positive in Shenzhen Bay Port. Drivers that are close contacts are required to quarantine in designated hotels, resulting in a supply shock in the local fresh produce market.
The close contact drivers have to stay in a quarantined hotel because one of them visited places that have not been reported to authorities. The Mainland has to conduct contact tracing thus, extending the duration of the quarantine period for the drivers.
Hong Kong’s vegetable supply is highly reliant on mainland China imports that cross the border daily. Yuen Cheong, the head of the Hong Kong Imported Vegetable Wholesale Merchants Association, told RTHK that vegetables from mainland farms constitute 90 percent of the local market. He expects that pea shoots will rise the most significantly.
The Mainland authorities said they will allow other registered drivers deployed by the industry to cover for the absent drivers in order to stabilize rising vegetable prices.
According to the retail prices charted by the Vegetable Marketing Organization, the majority of the vegetables have returned from the peaks due to the supply shock as of today.
Apart from the driver shortage, flooding in Guangdong and high logistics cost also contribute to the surge in price, said Yuen to The Standard.
A 50-year-old housewife who lives in Tseung Kwan O told us, “I would not mind buying more expensive vegetables because it is a necessity in our household”. On the other hand, a younger housewife said she will omit vegetable dishes amidst the price hike.
Chan Dik-sau, the Chairman of the Container Transportation Employees General Union, said that vegetable prices could remain high as cross-border truck drivers are under stricter testing requirements. The new arrangement requires them to provide negative test results within 24 hours before reaching the control point instead of the original 48 hours.
(Cover photo: Big Dodzy on Unsplash)