'End ban on mainland chickens or face action'

Wholesalers threaten 'radical' response after bird-flu scare stops poultry imports

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 4:32am

Chicken traders have threatened to take "radical" action if the government refuses to relax a four-month ban on mainland imported poultry today.

Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said he would be meeting Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man and expected to hear live mainland chickens could soon go back on the menu.

"They should expect us to do something radical if we do not get an answer," he said. Without spelling out what kind of action was planned, he said group members had jumped into the sea in protest at other policies.

He said Hongkongers were being forced to buy expensive live chickens bred locally.

Three other live-poultry associations in the city have agreed to set the wholesale price at HK$23.50 a catty (600 grams) - at least 50 per cent higher than last month.

Lawmaker and barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah said local breeders and traders might be "colluding" on the prices, which would be in violation of the soon-to-be-enacted competition law.

The three associations said the fixed price was intended to ensure a stable market.

A three-week ban on sales of all live chickens was imposed at the end of last month after a mainland bird was found with the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus.

Sales of local birds resumed on Wednesday. The ban on mainland live poultry was extended for four months while the government looks at ways to keep the two groups of birds segregated and prevent crossinfection, which would force a future ban on all live birds should the virus be found in one group.

Tsui's association, which mainly handles mainland chicken, said the extended ban had affected his members' livelihoods.

He is putting forward eight plans to avoid cross-infection. They include turning a fish market in Cheung Sha Wan into a temporary facility for live birds.