Traders firm on fish sales suspension

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2005, 12:00am

Government urged to restore public faith in local stocks and ensure mainland firms comply with safety requirements

Authorities failed to dissuade fishmongers from halting their trade in freshwater species as the fallout over tainted mainland fish intensified yesterday.

More than 30 representatives from fish wholesalers and retailers met Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officials to appeal for help in boosting consumers' shattered confidence in local freshwater fish despite tests showing them free of the cancer-causing agent, malachite green.

They also asked the government to ensure that the 88 mainland fish farms that export stocks to Hong Kong complied with food safety requirements.

Earlier yesterday, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Gregory Leung Wing-lup met government officials in Shenzhen to sort out details of a new farm accreditation scheme to ensure mainland fish is safe to eat.

Hong Kong's hygiene officials were being sent across the border to inspect the fish farms and get more information about their operation and their supervisory mechanisms, he added.

Seven tonnes of mainland freshwater fish arrived at Cheung Sha Wan wholesale market yesterday - a further drop from the 10 tonnes on Wednesday and 16 tonnes on Tuesday.

The usual daily import level was 60 to 70 tonnes before the scare, which was sparked by Guangdong's ban and recall of eel products from Jiangxi , Fujian and Anhui last week.

Hong Kong found 55 samples of eel and eel products to be contaminated, and 13 samples of eight species of mainland freshwater fish also containing the fungicide, whose use in fish has been banned in the US, Europe, Britain, Canada and the mainland.

Liberal Party legislator Vincent Fang Kang said the traders might go ahead with a suspension of trade tomorrow if demand dropped further.

'Whether we will suspend trade depends on the demand. If there is a demand from customers, then we will have to get some more fish from the market,' Mr Fang said.

Mr Fang will meet Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok today on behalf of local fishermen.

It is believed that the local traders would be left holding some 300 tonnes of unsold fish worth $200 million.

Tommy Hui Hon-man, chairman of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Freshwater Fish Wholesale Association, said it might consider suspending mainland imports 'unless each single fish is proved to be safe'.

Many fish market stalls were closed yesterday with industry leaders worried they might go bankrupt if public confidence was not restored soon.

Hong Kong and Kowloon Fresh Fish Association chairman Wong Tin-hung said: 'Even if we imported fish, there is no demand.'

Kwok Ka-ki, legislator for the medical sector, said Hong Kong should also do more tests and check mainland farms, and not depend solely on the authorities there to ensure food safety.

Meanwhile, 20 applications to import fresh pork from Henan were received yesterday. Hong Kong resumed imports of mainland pork after the outbreak of the pig-borne disease, Streptococcus suis, was declared under control in Sichuan .