Angry farmers take compensation battle to vice-president

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2008, 12:00am

Chicken traders and farmers took gripes over compensation offers related to the buyback of their licences to the national level yesterday when they petitioned Vice-President Xi Jinping .

The move came as another round of negotiations over compensation between the Food and Health Bureau and chicken farmers broke down.

'We think the central government should help us farmers and voice our concerns. We want to continue to do our work, but the SAR government will not let us,' New Territories Chicken Breeders Association secretary Wong Yee-chuen said. He demonstrated with other association members outside the Island Shangri-La hotel in Admiralty, where Mr Xi dined and where the petition was presented to a government representative. 'The government's packages are unacceptable.'

The group, which estimated that there were about 50 chicken farms and two pigeon farms in the city, said they had been offered less than the amount offered to retailers and wholesalers.

The bureau is expected to seek approval today from the Legislative Council finance committee for HK$1.12 billion in compensation payouts.

That represents a revised package that is about 11 per cent more generous than one proposed previously. Chicken farmers will now be offered up to HK$17.4 million, and other compensation for chickens and eggs.

According to the bureau, payouts for chicken farmers will total HK$290 million under the revised package.

Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen and five other members of his association also gathered outside the Shangri-La. 'We have to tell the vice-president that we all want to continue to do business, but the SAR government will not let us,' he said.

Earlier, a couple of dozen farmers gathered at Yuen Long Stadium before staging a slow-drive protest to the Murray Building in Central, some with their trucks hung with dead chickens.

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said calculations had been very generous. 'We have already explained to chicken farmers how compensation is calculated,' he said. 'Compensation for the biggest farm can be up to HK$17 million. We think this is very reasonable.'

Poultry Wholesalers and Retailers Association chairman Steven Wong Wai-chuen said many chickens were killed before the 8pm deadline yesterday as demand continued to drop, but he did not have exact figures. The government now requires that no live chickens are kept overnight at retail stalls in the city.

The number of live chickens available at the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market yesterday was 31,390, with 6,700 imported from the mainland and 24,690 from local farms.

An Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spokesman said the average wholesale price was HK$14.20 per catty.