A government department has been criticised over red tape in processing low-interest loans applications from poultry wholesalers and farmers. At yesterday's economic services panel meeting, Liberal Party member Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said wholesalers had told her that making an application was a cumbersome process and that some had been deterred by the red tape. Colleague Wong Yung-kan said some farmers found the conditions attached to the loan by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department too restrictive. In January, legislators approved an injection of $650 million to the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Loan Fund to make low-interest loans to poultry farmers, wholesalers and retailers affected by the poultry slaughter triggered by the bird flu crisis. The department said there were fewer applications than expected because some farmers had decided not to resume production and some wholesalers had difficulties in providing loan security. In a paper to legislators, the department said it had received 52 applications applying for loans totalling $129.45 million. Only 36 applications involving $56.02 million had been approved of which $10.69 million had been paid out to wholesalers. As for poultry retailers, 133 of 170 applications had been approved and 79 of the 114 applications from chicken farmers were accepted. Acting Secretary for Economic Services Leo Kwan Wing-wah said caution had to be exercised in approving loans because they were funded by taxpayers' money.