More taxpayers' money could be spent on taking the government to court to fight new hygiene regulations.
Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said he will apply today for legal aid to launch a judicial review against the government's ban on traders keeping live chickens overnight.
"The government's decision makes it very difficult for our business to continue," he said. It was hurting the interests of people in the business and depriving Hong Kong people of the taste of fresh chicken.
Tsui issued the threat yesterday after talks with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials to broker an improved buyout offer for people dealing in live poultry fell apart.
The transport sector of the poultry trade also failed to reach a deal with the AFCD on a buyout offer. The government is only willing to improve the deal to HK$180,000 each.
About 20 poultry trucks drove slowly outside Cheung Sha Wan government offices to protest against the ban on keeping live poultry overnight.
But Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok believed the ban on retailers from keeping chickens overnight will work out.
"We believe retailers and farmers will take the experience from today and make appropriate business decisions for the future," he said.
People who violate the ban may be prosecuted and have their licenses revoked, he said.
According to the amended Food Business Regulation, retailers who keep live poultry after 8pm can be subject to a fine of HK$50,000 and six months' imprisonment.
Chow also urged the industry to be "pragmatic" and "realistic" about compensation because there is little room to improve the buyout offer.
The overnight ban, the latest measure against H5N1, came into effect yesterday as the sale of live chicken resumed after a three-week halt. And wholesalers representative Tsui described as "unexpectedly satisfactory" the first day of operating under the overnight ban system. "So many chickens could be sold despite so few stalls being open," he said. More than 25,000 chickens were sold yesterday.
Tsui expects the supply of live chickens to return to a situation whereby about 20,000-23,000 come from the mainland and 10,000 from local farms.