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Poultry imports restrictions continue in HK
Latest Updated by 2006-03-17 16:17:19
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Top health official of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Wednesday further explained to live poultry traders that the HKSAR government had to reduce the number of imported chickens and the live poultry population in Hong Kong in the wake of mounting risks of an avian influenza outbreak.

During his meeting with 20 live poultry traders and members of the Legislative Council, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow said the measures were introduced to protect public health and guard against the disease from affecting Hong Kong.

Chow warned that an avian influenza outbreak would not only jeopardize public health but also deal a severe blow to the whole economy.

Earlier this month, a 32-year-old man in neighboring Guangdong Province in southern part of the Chinese mainland died of bird flu in Guangzhou, the provincial capital about 200 kilometers north ofHong Kong, sparking fears of possible avian influenza outbreak in the region.

Hong Kong health authorities had decided to suspend live poultry import from Guangdong Province shortly after the human death from bird flu was confirmed in the province.

Chow said the HKSAR government would field staff to meet with Guangdong officials next week before deciding on the resumption of live poultry and birds supply upon confirmation that the public health situation was normal.

He said the arrangement of capping the ceiling of live chicken imports at 20,000 chickens per day would be reviewed in mid-April.

As for the arrangement for live chicken imports during festive periods, the HKSAR government would continue to handle it with flexibility, having regard to the actual situation.

To reduce the risk of an epidemic outbreak through close contact between humans and live poultry and ensure that culling operations could be completed within the shortest possible time in the case of an outbreak, the government had to reduce the total chicken population in local farms to 2 million by May this year, Chow added.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department would continue to liaise with local chicken farms to discuss the details of the arrangement.

"We understand the whole world still comes under the threat of avian influenza," Chow said. "The Chinese mainland, Asia and other parts of the world are reporting more and more cases of outbreak of avian influenza among poultry."

"The Government has already granted over 270 million HK dollars compensation and ex-gratia payment to the trade between 1997 and 2004. To further assist the trade, we have since July 2004 made available nearly 600 million HK dollars by phases to help traders who opt for voluntary exit of the trade and cease operation permanently. This covers live poultry farmers, wholesalers, retailers and transporters.

"The government understands the development of a poultry slaughtering plant might bring about some impacts on the live poultry trade. We would try to balance different considerations, including public health and the livelihood of the trade," he said.

Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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