Chicken row: prices high and stocks low as sellers and suppliers clash

Supply of live poultry from farmers to retailers drops by half in a day, as sellers' boycott goes on

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 5:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2014, 6:15pm

The supply of live chickens from farmers to retailers dropped by half from Sunday to 6,350 yesterday, while one in every two sellers was estimated to have shut up shop as part of a week-long protest over high wholesale prices.

Breeders say they have been supplying fewer live chickens recently because fewer chicks were bred during the trade suspension two months ago sparked by a bird-flu scare.

But the abrupt drop revealed yesterday may also be a result of the retailers' boycott.

Retail prices remain at a high level of HK$65 per catty (600 grams) yesterday, meaning some chickens are priced at over HK$200 each. Two months ago the price was HK$40 per catty.

I don't think the boycott is having much effect. You don't have to eat live chickens
Ryan Wong, customer

Meanwhile, customers continue to find closed stalls in wet markets across the city.

At Kowloon City market, stallholder Chan Sau-kuen had not joined the boycott, preferring to serve regular customers. But her stocks were running low.

"I have just over 50 live chickens today, far fewer than I usually get. I had 100 in each of the last two days," she said.

Ryan Wong, a customer, bought two frozen chicken legs for HK$75. "I don't think the boycott is having much effect. You don't have to eat live chickens," he said.

Another customer said she had gotten used to eating frozen chickens during the three-week trade suspension in February. She will consider buying live chickens again if the price drops back to HK$150 a bird.

New Territories Chicken Breeders Association chairman Tang Wai-lun called on fellow breeders not to raise prices any more.

"Some of them were hoping to recover their previous losses. So far we haven't seen any further increases," Tang said.

Many chicks were killed during the trade suspension as farms struggled to find space for new chicks, which has contributed to the current stock shortage among breeders. Tang expects that within the next month supply to retailers will return to a level of 15,000 live chickens a day.

Poultry Dealers and Workers Association vice-chairman Ma Ping-lung, one of the boycott organisers, said about 60 of the city's 130 retailers had indicated they would take part in the protest action. But he could not confirm how many sellers had closed their stalls yesterday.

Retailers will assess the effects of the boycott and decide whether further action will be needed to resolve the problem, Ma said.