Row over resumed chicken imports

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 February, 1998, 12:00am

A FRESH row over handling of mainland chickens erupted yesterday with the resumption of imports due to begin in six days.

Hong Kong chicken wholesalers refused to accept government proposals to keep birds away from markets for up to three hours until their health can be confirmed.

Agriculture and Fisheries director Lessie Wei Chui Kit-yee told wholesalers the department wanted to isolate imported birds, pending test results at the Man Kam To crossing.

One option is to ask lorry drivers to park in a designated area at the wholesale market to await results while another is to allow wholesalers to keep their chickens but not to sell them until results are known.

Ms Wei said results could be available in three hours at the most.

But a wholesalers' representative, Poon Hung-wai, who led 20 farmers and wholesalers to meet Ms Wei yesterday, said a three-hour wait was too long.

'None of the government options is satisfactory. Where birds should be kept is not our major concern. We want the chickens to be allowed to go on sale at the markets,' Mr Poon said.

The import ban on mainland chickens, imposed on Christmas Eve at the height of the bird flu scare, will be lifted from Saturday.

All chickens will be imported through the Man Kam To crossing, where five government vets will be conducting quick tests on all birds.