SCMP Monday, June 18, 2001

Traders raise oversupply fears as 15,000 chickens unsold


About 15,000 live chickens went unsold in Cheung Sha Wan wholesale market yesterday as poultry workers complained about overstocking - exactly what the Government has tried to avoid with its new anti-bird flu measures.
Demand was less than expected even though no live chickens had been imported for almost a month until last Friday following the latest bird flu outbreak.
It was also Father's Day yesterday, when many families celebrate by eating chicken. Kowloon Poultry Wholesalers' Association chairman Wong Kum-yiu estimated total demand was running at about 90,000 chickens a day, compared with nearly 120,000 before the mass cull last month in which 1.37 million birds were slaughtered.
He said overstocking could have caused the latest avian flu outbreak. Association members will try to sell the remaining chickens today.
A total of 160,000 live chickens have gone on sale since stalls and markets reopened on Saturday.
A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the major importer, Guangnan Hong, would adjust imports according to market demand, but did not have yesterday's import figures.
The price of chicken fell at most markets with retailers having dropped it by an average of $2 a catty, to $20 yesterday, compared with $22 on Saturday, but this was still higher than the $17 to $18 a catty before the bird flu outbreak.
Spokesman for the Hong Kong Poultry Retailers' Association Steven Wong Wai-chuen said many chickens were too big, which discouraged retailers from buying too many.
"Most families only want small chickens, which are less than two catties. Only restaurants want the big ones that are for banquets or special dishes," he said.
Mr Wong said most poultry sellers also tried to avoid overstocking because of new government limits on the number of live poultry in cages.
Tsing Yi housewife Leung Mei-hwa paid $68 for a large bird. "It doesn't matter. I'm going to cook it for the whole family tonight. It's for a Father's Day celebration," she said.