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HK to resume live chicken imports next week
Updated: 2004-04-16 09:57

Hong Kong will resume imports of live poultry from the Chinese mainland next week after health chiefs gave its farms the all clear following deadly bird flu outbreaks, the government said.

A dealer sells live chicken in a Zhejiang market in this March 18, 2004 file photo. [newsphoto]
At least 6,000 birds will be imported from the mainland over three days from Tuesday, health secretary Yeoh Eng-kiong said.

"The recent visits to the mainland registered farms indicated that the farms have adopted the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the occurrence of avian influenza and instituted appropriate surveillance programs to detect the presence of the virus," Yeoh said.

Hong Kong halted imports from the mainland, the largest source of poultry, in February after multiple outbreaks of avian influenza were detected there.

China is among 10 Asian nations affected by widespread outbreaks, which led to the deaths of at least 23 people in Vietnam and Thailand. Millions of chickens and ducks were also culled in a bid to halt the disease's spread.

The import ban caused uproar in a city that before the flu outbreaks had consumed up to 150,000 chickens per day. Demand subsequently fell to less than 30,000.

"Given that the outbreak situation in the mainland is now under control and that surveillance has been stepped up, we proposed to pilot the importation of live poultry in suitable quantity on a trial basis in order to evaluate the new system before May 12," Yeoh added.

He said authorities had chosen the "creme de la creme from among all existing mainland registered farms" to supply chickens.

Hong Kong consumers prefer to buy their chicken live from market stalls and have them slaughtered minutes before cooking them.

The practice has been blamed for spreading the H5N1 virus, a particularly aggressive strain of the bird flu, which first leapt from chickens to humans in a 1997 outbreak that killed six people in Hong Kong.

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