Hong Kong Resumes Sales of Live Poultry

HONG KONG - Live chicken retailers have placed huge orders for the first trading day, as a 21 day ban on the sale of live poultry is lifted today. Meantime, the risk of an avian flu outbreak has been lowered by health authorities.
calendar icon 12 January 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

York Chow Yat-ngok, secretary for food and health, declared the resumption of live poultry sales from midnight on Wednesday after a panel of experts decided to downgrade the avian flu warning from "serious" to "alert".

The risk was considered stabilized after 4,500 samples collected from 30 poultry farms over the past three weeks all tested negative for the H5N1 virus. No case of avian flu among humans was reported in Hong Kong during the period.

The ban was declared on Dec 20, after a dead chicken collected from the wholesale market was tested positive for avian flu H5N1. The origin of the carcass remained undetermined. To facilitate tracking of such cases in future, wholesalers were required to register information concerning the origin of each carcass, commencing today.

Transactions at the wholesale markets will resume before sunrise. Live chickens will return to retail market this morning. But the import of poultry from the mainland will resume only on Friday, since the quarantine and inspection service will not open until 7 am today.

A spokeswoman from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said the local farms will ship 38,000 chickens to the wholesale market today, more than double the total supply from local and mainland farms on ordinary days.

Ma Ping-lung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Poultry Dealers and Workers Association, doubled the order for his own stall. He said he believed all other retailers had done the same in anticipation of strong demand on the first day of resumed sales.

Mr Ping-lung estimated the price would be fixed at an average of HK$36 per catty and since the impact on the peak demand for Chinese New Year is expected to be minimal, the average price may climb to HK$50 per catty in the next two weeks.

Statistics from AFCD showed there is a backlog of about 380,000 mature chickens at local farms. Even if the market consumes 20,000 birds a day - compared to about 7,000 on most days - the backlog will take three weeks to clear.

There also are many chickens older than 120 days, which are less popular among local consumers looking for tender white meat. Retailers will not be apprised as to the ratio of oversized chickens, until they meet with dealers to have their orders filled this morning.

Wong Yung-kan, the Legislative Council member for Agriculture and Fisheries, said farmers were willing to sell their big birds at a lower price, but Lee Leung-kei, deputy director general for the New Territories Chicken Breeders Association, was not prepared to offer huge discounts since demand for larger birds is often stronger before Lunar New Year as part of religious customs.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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