Wholesalers will receive HK$30 government compensation for each chicken culled last month because of bird flu while breeders will get about HK$30 ex gratia for each chicken that could not be sold at a prime age because of suspension of the trade.
The payments of more than HK$10 million will be tabled in the Legislative Council finance committee next week for approval, a government source said. It will also include ex gratia payments for poultry retailers and transport workers.
Traders say the payment will not be enough to cover their loss from the culling of about 20,000 birds at the wholesale market in Cheung Sha Wan on January 28 and the three-week trade suspension that followed.
It came after a sample from a Guangdong supplier tested positive for H7N9 bird flu.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said he understood it had been a hard blow for the industry.
Wholesalers said they would accept the HK$30 compensation.
But traders operating with a new business model were worried they might not be included.
"It's the government's mistake that led to our loss. It wasn't our farms that had bird flu," said Regal Cheng Chin-keung, director of a group that sells two local chicken brands. He would seek a judicial review if he was not compensated, he said.
His group hatches chickens and sends them to seven local farms until they are 90 days old. Then it buys them back at a fixed price for wholesale and retail sales.
Cheng said he killed about 10,000 chicks during the suspension period as the farms were overcrowded. His chickens can sell for up to HK$150 each during Lunar New Year, and his group usually sells about 4,000 a day during the festive period.
Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said that although each chicken could have been sold for about HK$60, he would still accept the HK$30 compensation. "We don't want the money, we want to continue our business," he said.
Health officials will meet representatives from the trade today to listen to their views.