Hong Kong poultry sellers call for financial help to fight bird flu threat
For precautionary measures to work, most wet markets need ventilation upgrades, which would drive up costs
Hong Kong poultry sellers have called for financial support from the government to introduce better facilities to separate consumers and live chickens in wet markets amid the threat of bird flu.
This came as the government launched a two-month public consultation on the future of the city’s live poultry trade on Monday, after a consultant study it commissioned concluded that live chicken sales should continue and a central slaughterhouse was unviable.
But more stringent avian flu precautionary measures were suggested in the study, such as introducing physical barriers in poultry stalls to separate consumers from the live birds.
Speaking on a radio programme Wednesday, Ma Ping-lung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Poultry Dealers and Workers Association, said the government could consider offering interest-free loans to vendors to complete the facilities upgrade.
“The ventilation system has to [support good air circulation]. Air conditioners will also have to be installed in the entire wet market, and this will need consent from all vendors to see if the cost can be spread,” Ma, who runs a chicken stall in Ngau Chi Wan, said.
“It would be difficult for some vendors to cover the cost.”
For government-run wet markets, he said the cost should be covered by public money, adding that sellers were willing to improve their facilities and were open to discussions with the government.
Ma said newly built wet markets had good separation measures where chickens were totally isolated from consumers by a glass door.
But he admitted that at least 60 per cent of wet markets were older buildings, with facilities that were less satisfactory.
“The plastic boards [placed in front of bird cages] may not be high enough. They could add [bigger] boards to prevent consumers from coming into contact with the live chickens,” Ma said.
Separately, on the consultant study’s suggestion of moving the current live poultry wholesale market from Cheung Sha Wan to Sheung Shui, Lin Tak-hing from Local Live Chickens Wholesalers’ Association expressed concern that transportation costs and time would increase with a site further away from the city centre.
“It will be more difficult for retailers to come over to choose their stock. Logistics and transport will also be challenging,” Lin said on the same radio programme.
Ma also said he expected the transportation cost to double if he had to transfer chickens from Sheung Shui to his Ngau Chi Wan stall.