Only the best birds bred on selected mainland farms will be imported under a plan to prevent further outbreaks of bird flu. Large-scale farms with quality-control systems had been selected to supply birds exclusively, the Guangdong Animal and Plant Quarantine Office said. It decided that only established farms that produced more than 100,000 chickens a year would be allowed to apply for the export quota, which will increase gradually to relieve pressure on prices. Smaller mainland farms may have to close as they will not meet the required hygiene standard. The Director of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, Lessie Wei Chui Kit-yee, said the strict controls and border checks would be a permanent measure. 'They are being checked repeatedly on the way to Hong Kong, and therefore, should be highly safe,' she said. However, local farmers warned yesterday they would be forced to rent out their properties for container storage if they were not allowed to rear chickens again soon. 'It's possible they will have to turn to other ways of making money if a decision is not made soon,' said 123 Democratic Alliance member Lawrence Yum Sin-ling. . He accused the department of being 'over-cautious' in its hard line towards local farms, with none approved to start live poultry farming again. However, a department spokesman said the ban was 'for the protection of the health of the Hong Kong public'. 'The standards are important and local farms will not be opened until the vets are happy with the standard,' the spokesman said. Farmers had been issued with cleanliness guidelines and what products to use. The spokesman said loans were available in the approved compensation package if farmers needed to update equipment. Mr Yum said the department had failed to provide clear criteria on what was required from farmers.