Traders threaten to widen protest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2005, 12:00am

Freshwater-fish wholesalers yesterday threatened radical action if the government fails to introduce measures to restore public confidence in eating fish.

The warning was made as more than 70 fish wholesalers from three markets started a three-day boycott after a second export ban in eight days was imposed by the mainland.

Authorities across the border acted after two fish samples were found to contain the cancer-causing chemical malachite green last Saturday.

The export ban has left Hong Kong with virtually no new supplies of freshwater fish though traders said there could have been very limited stocks on sale yesterday. About 15 tonnes of fish was imported last Saturday.

Wong Ming-kong, chairman of a freshwater fish wholesale body at Yuen Long wholesale market, warned of mobilising 100 trucks to join a slow-drive protest from Yuen Long to government headquarters in Central if their concerns over quarantine and inspection measures were not properly addressed.

'No one will dare to eat fish if there are still problems with the inspection system. That is why we insisted on the boycott,' Mr Wong said.

But he said a decision on a radical protest would depend on whether officials could solve the problems in two to three days and ensure sufficient imports from the mainland after the boycott.

Tommy Hui Hon-man, chairman of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Freshwater Fish Association, said they would hold further discussions with other fish trading groups on their next action after today's food safety panel meeting.

He hoped officials could quickly list which of the 88 registered fish farms on the mainland could supply Hong Kong importers.

Local fish farmers operating in Yuen Long gave the wholesalers their support. But Hong Kong New Territories Fish Culture Association chairman Lai Loi-chau said it was likely that supplies would resume on Thursday.

'We support the wholesalers to fight for what they want. But no matter what the wholesalers do after Wednesday, we will sell fish to any retailers who come to us,' said Mr Lai.

He said they had had to stop selling fish as there were no buyers in the wholesale market.

Yeung Shui-leung, who operates several fish ponds in Yuen Long, said he would support the action.

'If a majority believes a boycott is needed, we will certainly support it,' he said. But he warned that if the boycott lasted a week or even longer, some fish farmers might face financial problems.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department yesterday said eight freshwater fish samples taken from local farms contained no traces of malachite green.

A spokeswoman for Wellcome said the supermarket chain had stopped selling local freshwater fish yesterday because of the boycott. ParknShop said it had not sold freshwater fish since August 18 and had no timetable for a resumption.




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