March 19, 2004

 

 

Hong Kong Poultry Trade Resumes With20,000 Live Chickens

 

Hong Kong is set to resume its live chicken trade after poultry sellers reached an agreement with the government.

 

The agreement ended the boycott sparked by the government refusal to resume imports of mainland poultry. The green light came after wholesalers met with officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) yesterday.

 

After the two-hour meeting, wholesalers began fetching chickens from local farms last night, and confirmed that 20,000 live chickens will hit the market today.

 

Tsui Ming-tuen, chairman of the Hong Kong Live Poultry Association, denied that the industry gave in to pressure from the government.

 

"We were moved by public demand for live poultry, and felt that the government was sincere in its efforts," he said.

 

Retailer and wholesaler representatives refused to rule out further boycott action if the government fails to provide them with a definite timetable for the resumption of mainland chicken imports.

 

Earlier, the AFCD unilaterally announced the resumption of live poultry sales and supplied 500 live chickens to two wet markets yesterday morning.

 

Retailer and wholesaler representatives expressed regret at the decision, and said the government had contacted only chicken farmers for talks. They also refused to lend chicken farmers plastic cages for the delivery of live chickens to markets.

 

They accused the government of breaking the law when the AFCD bypassed wholesale markets and transported chickens directly from farms to markets for sale.

 

But the AFCD maintained that it has the right to amend laws under special circumstances.

 

"The department is entitled to make amendments to chicken farm licensing ordinances in the interest of public health," said Assistant Director Lai Ching-wai.

 

It is estimated that 1.7 million live chickens had been stockpiled since the strike began more than a week ago.