Up to 30,000 live chickens will be back in market stalls today after the all-clear from authorities investigating the outbreak of H5N1 bird flu on a Yuen Long farm 21 days ago. The outbreak, the first on a local farm since 2003, killed 285 chickens within 24 hours on December 8 and resulted in the culling of 68,000 chickens and 26,000 eggs at the farm. The Food and Health Bureau on Sunday gave the all-clear for the import of live poultry, including day-old chicks and pet birds, as well as live-chicken sales from today. About 7,000 birds from Huizhou and Zhuhai in Guangdong were imported yesterday and arrived at the Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Poultry Wholesale Market at about noon. Combined with the supply of live chickens from local farms, 20,000 to 30,000 birds would be available today, Hong Kong Live Poultry Wholesale Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen estimated. Live chickens will be sold wholesale for HK$18 to HK$20 per catty (600 grams), similar to the price before the ban. This would translate into a retail price of HK$26 to HK$32 per catty. 'We [chicken vendors] see hope and a beam of light,' Mr Tsui said. The Yuen Long bird flu outbreak was the second scare this year, after the virus was found at four wet markets in June. The farm at the centre of the scare has been quarantined and banned from supplying chickens until March. Investigations are continuing into the source of the virus and whether the H5N2 vaccine for poultry has failed. Mr Tsui said wholesalers had received 'enthusiastic responses' from retailers keen to start selling live chickens again. 'I think all the chickens will be sold out very promptly' today, he said yesterday, adding that fresh chicken 'is like eating fruit candies and honey: the taste is totally different. When there is a choice, I am sure Hongkongers would not mind paying a little more'. An Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department spokeswoman said new metal walls and fences were recently installed at the wholesale market 'to separate unsold chickens at the end of the day from new stock coming in the following day'. World Health Organisation expert Julie Hall said the risk of bird flu was seasonal and the world was looking to Hong Kong for possible new bio-security measures. 'We have been looking at H5N1 bird flu for five years now. What we are seeing now is a pattern in terms of seasonality ... although it is slightly down in terms of the numbers of poultry reports and human case reports. But still, it is early in the season,' said Dr Hall, medical officer for communicable-diseases surveillance and response at the WHO's western Pacific regional headquarters in Manila. 'We look forward to the outcomes of the various studies and continued surveillance that is going on in Hong Kong.'