A scuffle broke out between about 30 poultry traders and police in Central yesterday as the traders demanded a meeting with the health minister to complain about big cuts in the daily supply of live chickens. The wholesalers and vendors protested outside the Murray Building and urged Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok to come out. 'We have tried to meet him over the past three months but there has been no reply, so we came here today,' said Tsui Ming-tuen, chairman of the Hong Kong Live Poultry Wholesalers' Association. 'Our demand is simple, the government should increase the daily supply of live chickens to the level that the market demands - 10,000 a day is simply not enough.' He said the supply should be raised to at least 20,000 a day. Traders say the cut in supply from more than 20,000 to 10,000, in the wake of the government buy-back of two-thirds of traders' licences, had not only affected their business but also pushed up chicken prices by 50 per cent to about HK$45 a catty. H5N1 bird flu was found in chickens at four markets in June, leading to the suspension of sales and a government offer to buy out vendors. After the request to meet Dr Chow was turned down, some of the protesters tried to break through a police cordon to enter the building while others dashed to the middle of Cotton Tree Drive. They finally dispersed peacefully. The Food and Health Bureau called on live poultry traders to stay calm, adding that drastic action would not help resolve matters. It said that by the end of the buyout scheme for the live poultry trade on September 24, only 131 retailers had decided to remain in business. 'The government therefore decided to set the daily supply of live chickens at around 10,000, starting from September 25, in accordance with the projected retail capacity,' a spokesman said. 'Since then, no shortage of live chickens was found at the retail level in general. 'There is still overnight stocking of live chickens in the wholesale market. It is therefore believed that the current daily supply of live chickens can meet market demand.' He said people were eating more chilled and frozen chickens. According to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the supply of live chickens yesterday was 9,900, with 5,000 from the mainland and 4,900 from local farms.