Live Poultry Trade Buy-out Plan to Proceed

HONG KONG - Secretary for Food & Health Dr York Chow has confirmed the Government will proceed to implement the live poultry trade buy-out - even though fewer than 85% of retailers have applied to surrender their licences.
calendar icon 25 July 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

"This is a substantial reduction of live chicken in our markets, and also we've substantially reduced the risk of transmission of avian influenza to humans in our markets."
Secretary for Food & Health, Dr York Chow

Earlier, the bureau had announced it would extend an ex-gratia payment offer to poultry farmers, wholesalers and transporters if this 85% minimum were reached.

As of 20:00 last night, the Food & Environmental Hygiene Department had received 339 applications from live poultry retailers to permanently surrender the permission to sell live poultry and receive relevant compensation.

These applicants comprise 178 market tenants and 161 fresh provision shop licensees, representing just 72.4% of the 468 eligible applicants.

"We used the 85% as an indicator from the trade. They were adamant that they could not survive if this 'no-chicken-overnight' policy was imposed on them. But it seems in the last three weeks that this policy is working quite well and also the market is functioning quite effectively. I think that might be a reason why more people are willing to stay," Dr Chow said.

Up until June, retailers were allowed to keep unsold poultry in the markets overnight. This practice was ended following a still untraced outbreak of bird flu in markets in mid-June.

Still, he noted the number of poultry, in particular chicken, in Hong Kong, on a daily basis would plummet from the pre-June number of about 40,000 to 11,000 to 15,000.

Substantial reduction in risk

"This is a substantial reduction of live chicken in our markets, and also we've substantially reduced the risk of transmission of avian influenza to humans in our markets," he stressed.

"With that in mind, we've decided to go ahead with the ex-gratia payment for the existing 339 applicants. At the same time, we feel that, with the requests from some of the trade, that they need more time to consider.

"We have also extended the application date to the retail trade for another two months, until 24 September. But they must terminate the business before that day, as the other applicants have already decided."

Those who choose to stay in the poultry trade must maintain the 'no live chicken overnight' policy in the markets. They are also reminded that in the event of future bird flu outbreaks, they will not receive compensation for economic loss. In the event of a cull, they will receive only $30 per chicken.

Greater convenience, effectiveness, enforcement

The reduced number of chickens in the market will make it much more convenient and more effective for health inspectors and the avian influenza surveillance team to conduct tests in coming months. It will also ensure stricter enforcement against smuggling of chickens.

The Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department will soon contact the transport trade and wholesale markets, and the farms, to see how many are interested in terminating their business, in exchange for an ex gratia payment.

The number of live chickens coming from the Mainland will be adjusted to meet the retailers' demand and capacity, expected to be about 11,000 to 15,000 per day.

"This will be split into 50-50, half from Hong Kong and half from the Mainland, under the existing arrangement," Dr Chow said.

"In the long term, we will be able to plan a smaller size central slaughtering plant. We hope this will shorten the time that will lead to total segregation of poultry and humans."

Further Reading

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