Government to Take Over Chicken Trade?

HONG KONG - Poultry workers are demanding three billion compensation for the withdrawal of live bird licences.
calendar icon 20 June 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The government is about to make a multi-billion-dollar buy-out of Hong Kong's poultry industry, according to The Standard. The newspaper says it could be the end of the territory's live chicken trade. Farmers and traders are expected to be presented with a buy-out proposal today.

If the proposal were to be accepted, consumers would have the option of buying chilled or frozen chicken but no more live birds. It would also call a halt to the plan for central slaughtering redundant due in 2011.

However, chicken sellers are asking for at least HKD3 billion in compensation for the withdrawal of all live poultry licences for the 470 wet market or fresh provision stores.

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said the buy-out would apply to the whole industry, covering retail, wholesale and farming.

"These days we've heard much resistance from the industry against the proposed ban on keeping live chickens overnight, saying it would be a blow to their business, and that they're considering closing down [surrendering their licences]," he said.

"If they were to close down, it must apply to the whole line of business.

"Whether it is retail, wholesale or farms, all will be affected, including the transport sector."

Mr Chow said that the number of people eating live chickens is down to 18 per cent now, compared to the historical level of 42 per cent.

Separating chickens and people, or central slaughtering, is our ultimate destination what we have to consider is whether this should be done earlier, especially when we face the bird flu risk in three, four years' time," Mr Chow said.

The HKD3 billion sum for compensation to the chicken sellers was agreed after a meeting of more than 20 representatives of the live poultry industry yesterday.

Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers' and Retailers' Association secretary Lau Chung-sun said the compensation plan, covering ten years, would support the vendors' monthly incomes plus the value of their licences until their retirement. Most vendors are too old to switch jobs.

"If the government were to close down our business, it must pay enough to support our livelihood; with my education level and skills it's hard for me to change profession now," said Mr Lau.

In the government's 2005 Voluntary Surrender Scheme, each stall was offered a one-off payment of HKD200,000 to 500,000, depending on size.

The Standard reports Mr Lau saying that HKD3 billion as "a fair sum" as the new surrender scheme is forced.

View The Standard story by clicking here.

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