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LCQ11: Restrictions on bird's nest products entering Mainland
     Following is a question by the Hon Shiu Ka-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 14):

     According to the Catalogue of Animals and Plants, and Animal and Plant Products Prohibited from being Carried or Posted into the People's Republic of China which came into effect on March 2, 2012, bird's nests are prohibited from being carried or posted into the Mainland.  In addition, there are also restrictions on the quantity of daily necessities and health food products that may be carried into the Mainland by travellers of Chinese nationality, and the relevant quotas have not been raised since 1996.  Some members of the retail industry have relayed to me that such restrictions have significantly impacted on the shopping and spending behaviour of Mainland residents in Hong Kong.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has enquired with the Mainland authorities about the reasons for and the situation of imposing the aforesaid restrictions;

(2) whether it assessed in the past five years the impact of such restrictions on the retail industry of Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) as some members of the retail industry have pointed out that since the Mainland authorities signed agreements with the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities in 2013 and 2014 respectively to allow the import into the Mainland of Malaysian and Indonesian bird's nest products which meet the relevant inspection and quarantine requirements, it is quite meaningless for the Mainland authorities to enforce the ban on the carrying of bird's nests from Hong Kong into the Mainland, whether the Government will discuss with the Mainland authorities the following issues: (i) lifting the restriction on carrying bird's nests from Hong Kong into the Mainland, and (ii) formulating, by making reference to the export of bird's nests from Hong Kong to places such as Europe and North America, a set of entry quarantine arrangements for the import of bird's nests, which are acceptable to the Mainland authorities, the Hong Kong Government and the retail industry; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(4) whether it will request the Mainland authorities to raise, in light of the present robust economic development on the Mainland and the increase in the purchasing power and needs of the Mainland residents, the quotas, and the applicable ceiling values for such quotas, for daily necessities and health food products which they may carry into the Mainland; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     In consultation with the relevant policy bureaux and departments, I provide a consolidated reply to the various parts of the question as follows:
(1) According to our understanding, the Mainland authorities revised the “Catalogue of Animals and Plants, and Animal and Plant Products Prohibited from being Carried or Posted into the People's Republic of China” in 2012, for the purposes of preventing animal and plant diseases and pests from spreading into the Mainland and protecting the production of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery as well as public health and safety.  The animals, plants and their products prohibited from being carried or posted into the Mainland include, among others, live animals (except cats and dogs), meat and its products, eggs and egg products, bird's nest (except canned bird's nest) and fresh fruits and vegetables.  This restriction applies to all persons entering the Mainland from various countries or regions.

(2) The Government has not conducted any assessment of the impact of the trade of bird's nests or related trade restrictions imposed by other places on our retail industry.  According to the statistics of the Census and Statistics Department, edible bird's nests accounted for 0.03 per cent of the total value of Hong Kong's external merchandise trade in 2016.

(3) and (4) Bird's nest products include raw bird's nests and ready-to-eat ones.  All raw bird's nests are imported, while some bird's nest products are processed or treated in Hong Kong for exportation to other places or for local sale.  As for the exportation of bird's nest products to places such as the United States and Canada, exporters apply to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for the Sanitary Certificate for Products of Animal Origin as required by the exporting destinations.

     The requirements set by the Mainland for importation of bird's nests are different from those adopted by other places.  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is in active discussion with the Mainland authorities on the inspection, quarantine and health requirements for exporting relevant products from Hong Kong to the Mainland, and consensus has been reached on some basic principles.  Announcements will be made to the trade in due course when the discussion bears fruit.

     The entry requirements on Mainland visitors imposed by the Mainland authorities are applicable to all visitors entering the Mainland from various places across the world (including Hong Kong).  We will continue to keep close track of the latest development in this respect.
Ends/Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:10
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