Retailers cut back orders because of ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 July, 2008, 12:00am

Poultry retailers with permits to resume sales said yesterday they had cut their orders for chickens to as little as one-third of normal levels to ensure their cages would be empty by the end of the business day.

Before today's resumption of live-chicken sales - after a 21-day suspension - retailers have been busy cleaning cages and scrubbing utensils to meet the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's requirements for sale permits.

At the Kowloon City Complex, a wet market where chicken sales resume today, sellers said they would not know the retail price until early today because wholesalers had yet to set theirs.

They also said they were purchasing fewer chickens in the face of the ban on stocking unsold birds overnight. Stallholder Chow Hon-ling said she had cut her wholesale order from the normal 150 to 50 birds. Another vendor, Ms Leung, said she had cut her order by half, to 40.

Keeping unsold chickens in refrigerators after killing them would increase her operating cost greatly because of the extra consumption of electricity, she said.

'Having not enough chickens for sale would be better than having some left,' Ms Leung said.

She would be at pains to sell all her chickens today, she said. 'If there are a few chickens left near the end of the business day, I may sell them at a discounted price.'

Neither vendor had decided whether to surrender her licence under the government's buy-back scheme. Ms Chow said she preferred to go on selling live chickens. Ms Leung said she would consider the step next week, based on this week's sales.

The owner of a chicken stall in the Tai Po Complex, Lam Shuk-chi, said she would buy only 30 to 40 today, compared with at least 100 in the past. She said she was worried that she did not have enough time to kill and freeze unsold stock, and said the overnight ban should be relaxed. 'We just want the public to enjoy live chickens. Can the government guarantee that there is no bird flu in chilled chickens?'