LCQ10: Way forward of live poultry trade
Regarding the way forward for the live poultry trade, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that the supply of live chickens from the Mainland to Hong Kong was suspended or reduced intermittently on a number of occasions after January 2014, and has even halted altogether since February 2016, of the actions taken by the authorities since 2014 to provide assistance to the live poultry traders affected; whether the Secretary for Food and Health will consider paying a visit to the Mainland to discuss with the relevant Mainland authorities (including the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)) on expeditious resumption of supply of live chickens to Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) as the Government stated last month that the Food and Health Bureau, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department had been maintaining liaison with AQSIQ, the Ministry of Commerce as well as the relevant entry-exit inspection and quarantine bureaux of the Mainland on the issue of supply of Mainland live chickens to Hong Kong, of the date, mode, participating departments and outcome of each session of such liaison made since 2014;
(3) as it has been learnt that there has been no longer any minor poultry (including pigeons, silky chickens, pheasants and chukars) imported from the Mainland to Hong Kong since a few months ago, whether the Government has gained an understanding from the Mainland authorities on when the supply of minor poultry to Hong Kong will be resumed;
(4) as the Government sees merits in the measure recommended by a consultant of vaccinations of poultry against H7N9 Avian Influenza (AI) virus to improve bio-security, and it has been reported that farms on the Mainland are administering such vaccinations to chickens to fight against AI, whether the Government will expedite the discussion with the Mainland authorities on the resumption of supply of live chickens to Hong Kong;
(5) whether it will consider relaxing the regulation on the transfer of licences for live poultry wholesalers and retailers, so as to make it easier for such licences to be passed on; if not, of the reasons for that; and
(6) as the Government has indicated that it will invite the trade to participate in the study of different feasible options for enhancing the segregation between consumers and live poultry at retail outlets and for the relocation of Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market, of the details of the relevant plans?
My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) to (3) In response to the avian influenza (AI) incident at the end of January 2014, the Government looked into practical arrangements that would help avoid causing disruption to the operation of local live poultry trade and the supply of live poultry to Hong Kong in case of detection of H7 AI virus in imported live poultry. Since it took time to work out and put in place suitable arrangements, despite the fact that Cheung Sha Wan Temporary Wholesale Poultry Market (CSWTWPM) resumed operation in February 2014, the Government decided then to continue the suspension of importation of live poultry from the Mainland for about four months. Given the impact of the suspension on the operation of import wholesalers, cross-boundary transport operators of live poultry and retailers who sold solely live pigeons, the Government assessed the situation and decided to provide these stakeholders with a one-off ex-gratia payment (EGP) and rental waiver on an exceptional basis to help alleviate their financial hardship so caused.
It is understood that since the detection of AI at the end of December 2014, in the light of the prevailing AI situation on the Mainland and nearby areas as well as the associated risks, the Mainland authorities have adopted more stringent measures for managing registered Mainland farms supplying live poultry to Hong Kong and Macau. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government keeps an open mind on the supply of live poultry from the Mainland, and recognises the importance of the measures taken by the relevant Mainland authorities to strengthen the prevention and control of AI on the Mainland. Although there is no import ban on live poultry from the Mainland, the registered Mainland farms supplying live poultry to Hong Kong, on commercial considerations, have not supplied live chickens to Hong Kong since mid-February 2016.
The Food and Health Bureau, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) maintain close liaison with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the Ministry of Commerce, and the relevant entry-exit inspection and quarantine bureaux of the Mainland on issues relating to food supply from the Mainland as well as safeguarding food safety, including the issue of live poultry supply to Hong Kong, on various occasions and through various channels under the existing communication mechanism. Our efforts on this front will continue. Also, I will visit the Mainland in due course to discuss issues of mutual concern.
(4) AFCD maintains communication with the Ministry of Agriculture and AQSIQ about issues relating to the H7 AI vaccine. It is understood that the Ministry of Agriculture is preparing for the production of the vaccine. The Government will keep in view the progress, including whether the vaccine will be used on the registered Mainland farms supplying live poultry to Hong Kong.
(5) A live poultry wholesaler operating in CSWTWPM is required to sign a stall tenancy agreement with AFCD, under which transfer of the tenancy by the tenant is not allowed. Under special circumstances, however, the tenancy may be transferred to immediate family members (i.e. parents, spouse or children) of the tenant. If the tenant is a company, the shares transferable within the tenancy period must not exceed 49 per cent and the transferees must not be the recipients of EGP under the voluntary surrender scheme (note) in exchange for their surrender of tenancies and ceasing operation. As for retailers, FEHD allows transfer of the licence/tenancy of a live poultry retail outlet to immediate family members (i.e. parents, spouse or children) of the licensee/tenant so as to maintain the operational landscape of the live poultry supply chain. The Government currently has no plan to change the above policy.
(6) Having considered the findings of the consultancy study completed earlier on the way forward of live poultry trade in Hong Kong and the outcome of public consultation, the Government has decided to maintain the status quo for the live poultry trade (i.e. continue the sale of live poultry at retail level and no need to ban the import of live poultry from the Mainland). The Government will also actively implement a series of bio-security improvement measures recommended in the consultancy study, including exploring the feasibility of introducing vaccination against H7N9 AI on local chicken farms, strengthening pre-sale AI testing at farm level and reducing staying time of minor poultry at the wholesale market, in order to guard against AI risk in a more comprehensive manner. In response to the divergent views received on further segregation of live poultry and humans at retail outlets and the relocation of CSWTWPM, the Government is currently studying different options and will engage the trade in due course to ensure that the options developed would be pragmatic and feasible.
Note: To reduce human contact with live poultry for better prevention of AI, the Government launched a voluntary surrender scheme and a buyout scheme in 2004/2005 and 2008 respectively concerning the licences/tenancies of poultry farmers and other related businesses in the live poultry supply chain.
Ends/Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:07
Issued at HKT 12:07