Poultry slaughter payouts increased
The Government yesterday bowed to pressure from the poultry industry and increased compensation for chickens slaughtered in the hunt for the deadly bird flu virus.
Only two days after announcing the terms for its original deal, the administration offered a 'final' package which will pay chicken farmers $2 a bird more.
Compensation will now be $38, $28 and $18 for large, medium and small birds respectively. The original payments were $36, $26 and $16.
Officials will seek more than $770 million from provisional legislators tomorrow to fund the scheme.
A senior government source admitted the Government might not have thoroughly examined all data before making the first proposal on Monday.
But he added: 'We are sincere in listening to the industry. We're not putting on a political show.
'We can't agree to all their demands, but we believe we have struck the right balance.
'It's a take-it-or-leave-it package, but I think it's reasonable.' Under the new package, payouts for wholesalers and retailers stay the same, at $30 and $34 per bird.
Wholesalers will also be given a $40,000 ex-gratia payment, while a similar payout for retailers has been increased from $16,000 in government markets and $28,000 in private markets to $30,000 and $60,000 respectively.
The lump sum payment for poultry drivers will be $24,000 per lorry.
The new package includes a more detailed low-interest loan scheme for chicken farmers, wholesalers and retailers at two per cent interest.
Retailers were not offered loans in the original package.
Each farmer will be able to apply for a loan of up to $500,000 under the existing Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Loan Fund, which will be given an injection of $80 million.
A Poultry Trade Fund will be set up, offering wholesalers loans of up to $5 million and retailers up to $300,000 each.
The total cost of compensation and ex-gratia payments to the industry will be about $104 million. The total available for loans will be $650 million.
An additional $16.4 million will go to the Agriculture and Fisheries Department to cover the cost of handling payouts and processing loan applications.
Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming said the new package was 'barely acceptable'.
But provisional legislator Wong Siu-yee said the improvement showed the Government was sincere about helping the industry.
'After all, it's public money. I support the package in principle and I think our party will probably approve the funding,' said Mr Wong, a member of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance.