Difficulty in sourcing locally produced pork puts vendors in dilemma

Tan Choon Yong poses for a photo by his pork stall at Stutong Community Market.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, April 17: Pork sellers here may be forced to exit the business if the supply of locally produced pork is not increased.

Butcher Tan Choon Yong revealed that customers prefer locally produced pork meat compared to imported pork.

However, the African Swine Fever situation in Sarawak in recent years has caused a shortage in locally produced pork as many local farmers stopped rearing pigs while producers who remained active increased prices.

To meet demand, Sarawak imports pork which is cheaper but which many consumers say taste different.

Tan said if local pork producers could not increase supply, more of his peers may have to hang up their butcher knives, and it could also slowly drive away their regulars.

He revealed that at the moment, to stay in the business and to meet his daily customer demand, he would usually need the best 100 per cent locally produced pork in the form of two to three pigs of slightly more than 100 kilograms each in size.

He related that it was not easy but fortunately, he has regular local suppliers to get his pork from.

He said his regular customers are very particular and can tell the difference in the taste of pork, and thus, preferred locally produced pork.

“So we have no choice as we already inculcate the approach of selling the finest fresh local pork cuts, as practised not only by my late father but also my peers.

“This business we are in is very customer-oriented and centric,” he told DayakDaily.

The 49-year-old Tan shared that this customer-centric practice is deeply rooted in the trade as their customers know what kind of meat they want.

“For us, we must ensure we continue to give the customers satisfaction as most are our regulars from the days of my late father’s practice.”

Tan disclosed he joined the trade after school and learned about its good practices and philosophy from his late father and others in the butcher trade.

“I believe that this (customer-centric focus) is what butchers in the local pork trade should continue to practise. For me, the last 20 years embracing this profession, I did this and it does help build a closer rapport between me and my customers over the years,” he shared.

Tan said that their customers’ continued support only made him and his peers strive harder to preserve the trade and the local culture of selling pork.

“(Through) these practices we hope to continue enhancing our services, help boost our image as butchers and get people to respect our profession.

“To ensure that our customers get a good cut of pork, we must know the meat so that we can educate them on what to choose before they buy and consume,” he said, emphasising the importance of butchers knowing their products well.

“Fresh minced pork is many customers’ favourite as it is easy to cook and prepare. Those who love fatty cuts would go for the three-layer pork, and for soup it is always the spare ribs. Though these are popular parts, but customers also go for other parts as a preference.”

Tan revealed customers spend anywhere from just RM10 to hundreds of ringgit on pork, and adding a little more meat to their total can put a smile on anyone’s face.

He also revealed that there is usually no leftover pork as eateries would usually snap it up at a much lower price.

His favourite way to consume pork is thinly sliced steamed pork dipped in fresh garlic sauce.

Customers buying fresh pork cuts at Tan’s stall at Stutong Community Market.

Tan, who has been the Kuching South Hawker And Trader’s Association chairman for eight years, hoped that the business community will always build connections between themselves and their customers to ensure the sustainability of their business.

Tan encouraged all his peers to be honest and innovative to better their business.

“I hope they (customers), especially the younger generation, will go to community markets as ‘one-stop-centres’ to buy fresh produce as it is our local culture that is part of our life. I thank the Sarawak government for helping us,” he said.

Tan’s stall is No. 34 in the pork section of the Stutong Community Market. It operates daily from 4am to 11am except Monday. For inquiries, call 016 886 9559. — DayakDaily