Hong Kong toy makers increase their vigilance

Israeli buyer says he trusts toys' quality.

hong kong toy biz 88 224 (photo credit: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)
hong kong toy biz 88 224
(photo credit: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)
Stringent safety measures implemented in the wake of high-profile toy recalls last year will drive up the cost of China-made toys by at least 10 percent this year, an industry executive said Monday. Hong Kong toy makers, most of which have production lines in mainland China, have been struggling to repair reputations damaged by last year's recalls of millions of potentially hazardous toys. Added checks along the supply chain are driving up costs and production time, however, said Michelle Chong, assistant to the director of The Toy Company (Hong Kong) Ltd., the buyer for a toy wholesaler in Germany. Chong said her company expected to spend US$1 million this year on quality control - up from US$300,000 in previous years - to test each of the painted toys they buy before they are shipped to the wholesaler. The new checks and balances could push up prices by an extra 10% this year and dent their competitiveness, she said. Chong's company was one of 2,000 exhibitors from 36 countries at the annual Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, which runs through Sunday. It was organized by Hong Kong Trade Development Council, a semi-government agency that promotes Hong Kong goods. Hong Kong toy exports grew 25% to US$11.4 billion in the first 11 months in 2007 over the same period of the previous year. Mattel Inc. - the world's largest toy maker - issued a recall for millions of Chinese-made toys last year because of concerns about lead paint or tiny magnets that could be swallowed. Beads in another China-made toy, called Bindeez in Australia and Aqua Dots in the United States, were found to contain a chemical that can convert into a powerful "date-rape drug" when ingested. At least nine children in the US and three in Australia became sick after swallowing the beads. The toy was distributed through a Hong Kong company. Israeli businessman Ram Pe'er said he trusted the quality of toys he gets from China because he had built up long-term relationships with his suppliers and made frequent trips to the Chinese factories. "I'm worried, but I know everybody is taking care of what needs to be done," Pe'er said. "If not, the Chinese government will. The whole market is so closely watched that people cannot do whatever they want."