March 22, 2004



Hong Kong Resumes Import Of China Poultry


Hong Kong has resumed the import of chilled and frozen chicken from China following the easing of bird flu restrictions, the government said.


A spokesman said about 24,000 chickens are expected to be imported. The ban was imposed on January 30 at the height of the deadly avian flu outbreak in China and much of the rest of Asia.


The government said it has also received applications for the import of other poultry, such as ducks and geese.


Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Thomas Chan told a radio talk show that a ban on the import of live chicken, however, must remain until at least May 12.


That would be the safest date to relax the import ban based on international guidelines that state three months of no infections should pass before sales may resume.


Before the ban, some 90 percent of all the 150,000 chickens consumed daily in Hong Kong were purchased live, and the majority of them were imported from China.


Hong Kongers prefer to buy their poultry live and have it slaughtered at market stalls just before cooking, saying chilled or frozen chicken has less taste.


The last infection in China was recorded at a farm in southern Guangdong province on February 12.


Hong Kong remains free of bird flu, which has emerged in 10 Asian countries and killed 24 people in Thailand and Vietnam.


Fear of the deadly H5N1 variant has suppressed consumption of chicken in Hong Kong from 150,000 birds a day to about 27,000.