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Plan to reduce bird flu risk unveiled

by 5m Editor
14 March 2005, at 12:00am

HONG KONG - Measures to further reduce the risk of bird flu outbreaks in Hong Kong have been proposed. They include reducing the live poultry population, regional slaughtering, and a $264-million voluntary surrender scheme for farmers and wholesalers.

Plan to reduce bird flu risk unveiled - HONG KONG - Measures to further reduce the risk of bird flu outbreaks in Hong Kong have been proposed. They include reducing the live poultry population, regional slaughtering, and a $264-million voluntary surrender scheme for farmers and wholesalers.

The Health, Welfare & Food Bureau also suggests the introduction of compulsory termination of the live poultry trade in the event of an avian flu outbreak, which entails the culling of all live poultry in Hong Kong.

Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food Dr York Chow told lawmakers today avian flu viruses are becoming more pathogenic causing more fatality.

Reducing the live chicken population will lower the risk of an epidemic outbreak and enable the Government to respond swiftly and effectively to a local outbreak.

Population halved

Dr Chow said the chicken population in local farms has grown to over 3.7 million, and there is a need to maintain the maximum licensing capacity at half the existing chicken population so depopulation can be completed within a week.

To better protect Hong Kong from an outbreak, better management measures to reduce the live poultry population include:

  • incorporating further conditions in the existing farm licences, imposing a ceiling on the maximum number of live birds that can be kept in that farm for public health reasons; and,

  • revising the law to empower the Directors of Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation and Food & Environmental Hygiene to stop issuing new poultry farm and fresh provision shop licences on public health grounds.

Proposed regional slaughterhouses will be funded, built and operated by the private sector. A financial feasibility study is underway to ascertain the scope for private sector participation.

A suitable location adjacent to the central slaughtering facilities for live ducks and geese in the Western Wholesale Food Market has been identified for developing a medium-sized slaughterhouse on a pilot basis.

Ex-gratia payment

Regarding the voluntary surrender scheme for live poultry farmers and wholesalers, a provision of about $264 million has been proposed to provide those affected with ex-gratia payment.

The scheme aims to reduce as much as possible the number of poultry farms in Hong Kong, particularly small ones which cannot implement the required biosecurity measures. To encourage them to close, the minimum ex-gratia payment payable to chicken farms will be set at $300,000 per license. A maximum ceiling of $3 million will be set for the ex-gratia payment for poultry farmers as larger farms are likely to be able to implement the required biosecurity measures.

Retraining and financial assistance will be available. Affected workers may receive up to $8,000 if they have attended eight weeks of retraining courses and attained at least 80% attendance in each course. For affected workers still unemployed after retraining, a one-off grant of $10,000 will be provided.

To help poultry transporters change their business, loans up to $50,000 per vehicle on an unsecured basis have been proposed.

Source: Hong Kong Government - 14th March 2005

5m Editor