Chickens go cheap as live sales restart

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am


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Live-chicken sales will resume today after a three-week ban following a bird flu threat, and prices are likely to be cheaper than usual because of a supply glut. About 400,000 chickens have been kept in local poultry farms during the ban.

More than 20,000 will be sent to the city's markets to restock stalls following confirmation yesterday from Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok that the ban would end today.

The government will downgrade the bird flu warning from 'serious' to 'alert'.

Sales were suspended after it was confirmed that a dead bird found at a wholesale market was infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Chow said the demand for local chickens was forecast to rise from 7,000 to about 10,000 a day.

But lawmaker Wong Yung-kan, of the agriculture and fisheries sector, said after meetings with industry players that about 20,000 chickens would need to be put on sale in the first days after the ban was lifted.

'About 20 days will be needed to clear the current stock, assuming that the daily demand during the Lunar New Year period requires about 20,000 chickens, which is higher than usual,' he said.

'We ... agreed to increase supply as long as they don't suffer losses,' he said yesterday. 'I think it opens up room for price reductions.'

The secretary of the New Territories Chicken Breeders Association, Lee Leung-kei, estimated that retailers would not sell chickens at much lower prices because demand was typically high at this time of year. For example, many people would buy chickens for worshipping, he said.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department completed three rounds of inspections on all 30 chicken farms in Hong Kong in the past three weeks, and found that farmers had strictly complied with bio-security and environmental hygiene requirements, Chow said after a meeting with health and environmental hygiene officials.

It tested about 4,500 samples collected from local farms and all had no signs of the bird flu virus, he said.

About 300 samples from 1,800 chilled chickens taken since December 21 were also clear of bird flu.

Chow said that despite the death of a man in Shenzhen last month from bird flu, there was no evidence of any mass outbreak and there was no plan to stockpile flu vaccines.

The department would work with local poultry farmers to avoid overnight stocking of too many chickens, which would increase the bird flu risk, he said.

From today, wholesalers must tell government staff every time a dead chicken is found. Staff will record the source and label any dead chickens before sending them for testing.